Ask About These Lifesaving Medical Tests

Are your health screenings up to date?

by Peg Rosen
Photograph: Illustrated by Bryan Christie

Transferrin Saturation Test: Hemochromatosis, a disease that causes a potentially deadly buildup of iron in the body, is the single most common genetic disorder among Americans. But early symptoms, which include joint pain, fatigue and low sex drive, can be so vague that doctors miss the diagnosis. Interestingly, women often don’t develop signs of the disease until they reach menopause, since monthly periods have until that point naturally help clear the body of excess iron. “The transferrin saturation is a screening test for iron overload. Many would argue it’s a test everyone should have at least once in their lifetime,” says Faubion. 

Breast MRI: MRI’s can detect masses in the breast before they are big enough to be picked up by mammograms and sonograms. However, false positive rates are high and can lead to unnecessary biopsies. “It’s not a good idea for all women, but for those with a family or personal history of breast cancer or are BRCA I or II positive, MRImay still be a very worthwhile test,” says William Parker, M.D., clinical professor of ob/gyn at UCLA School of Medicine.

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