Full-Body CT Scans - What You Need to Know
Using a technology that "takes a look" at people's insides and promises early warnings of cancer, cardiac disease, and other abnormalities, clinics and medical imaging facilities nationwide are touting a new service for health-conscious people: "Whole-body CT screening." This typically involves scanning the body from the chin to below the hips with a form of X-ray imaging that produces cross-sectional images. CT is recognized as an invaluable medical tool for the diagnosis of disease, trauma, or abnormality in patients with signs or symptoms of disease. It's also used for planning, guiding, and monitoring therapy. What's new is that CT is being marketed as a preventive or proactive health care measure to healthy individuals who have no symptoms of disease.
Compared to most other diagnostic X-ray procedures, CT scans result in relatively high radiation exposure. The risks associated with such exposure are greatly outweighed by the benefits of diagnostic and therapeutic CT. However, for whole-body CT screening of asymptomatic people, the benefits are questionable. There are no proven benefits for healthy people.
Points to consider if you are thinking of having a whole-body screening:
· Whole-body CT screening has not been demonstrated to meet generally accepted criteria for an effective screening procedure.
· Medical professional societies have not endorsed whole-body CT scanning for individuals without symptoms.
· CT screening of high-risk individuals for specific diseases such as lung cancer or colon cancer is currently being studied.
· The radiation from a CT scan may be associated with a very small increase in the possibility of developing cancer later in a person's life.
Many people don't realize that getting a whole body CT screening exam won't necessarily give them the "peace of mind" they are hoping for, or the information that would allow them to prevent a health problem. An abnormal finding, for example, may not be a serious one, and a normal finding may be inaccurate. CT scans, like other medical procedures, will miss some conditions, and "false" leads can prompt further, unnecessary testing.
Before having a CT screening procedure, carefully investigate and consider the potential risks and benefits and discuss them with your physician.