Tuesday, July 28, 2020

If you are female, question your medical results

Apropos of absolutely nothing, I thought it  worth mentioning that our daughter just got a blood test done at the popular and well-known Dyna-Care blood labs and, because in this day and age the results are available online, she was able to see her results, and the Dyna-Care analysis and recommendation.
Now, it doesn't really matter what the test was for these purposes, or what the recommended range actually means in practical terms, but Dyna-Care concluded that her levels of whatever were a little high but still well within the acceptable range (her reading was 18 something-or-others, and the "normal" range is up to 35, according to Dyna-Care).
She still has to have an appointment with her family doctor to discuss these results, of course, but I imagine, in most cases, that would probably be the end of the process: the doctor would just say, "Oh, your test came back normal, nothing to worry about". But being a proactive sort of a person, and a biology PhD student (although not in the medical field), our daughter did a bit of digging, and what she found was, well, disturbing.
From what she found online, the most commonly used normal range for that particular test is up to 18 whatever-they-ares, which puts her right at the very top end of normal or, arguably, the bottom end of abnormal. Even more digging yielded the fact that the 18 limit is actually for men; a more suitable limit for women would be 9, putting her result at twice the recommended maximum! Nowhere could she find any mention of the 35 limit that Dyna-Care seems to be using.
So, it does throw into question to what extent we should rely on these kinds of lab tests. This particular one may have been an anomaly, or it may not - how would we ever know? The other thing it highlights is the well known, but still unaddressed, problem that studies and tests in the medical field are almost all geared towards men and not women, and, in many areas of medicine, women - who make up over half of the population, after all, and certainly more than half of the population with medical problems - are physiologically very different from men. Their readings are different, their "normal" is different, they react differently to medicines and treatments, etc, etc. This is known.
So, I guess the moral of the story is: Ask. Question. Do not take things for granted. Especially if you are female.

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