A few years ago, buoyed by Oprah’s endorsement, whole-body CT scanning centers starting cropping up all over the country. These scans appeal to the ‘worried-well’ side in all of us and certainly sound logical. If only we could ‘see’ what’s going on inside our body, we could prevent heart disease or cancer from developing into a serious problem. Unfortunately, the technology isn’t perfect. These scans produce lots of false-positives, and until large-scale clinical trials are performed, we don’t know if these scans could actually do anything to save lives. This story does a great job of presenting the controversy surrounding these scans. The story accurately presents the lack of clinical data currently available, the potential downsides and costs of this test, and quotes multiple sources from both sides of the debate. The story could have presented the alternatives to the tests, which is to have the traditional screening tests (PSA, mammography, colonoscopy) and to talk to your doctor about any new symptoms.
The story provides the cost of the scans
– $650, which will be entirely out of pocket since insurers don’t cover the scans without an indication. It would have been
nice if the story had mentioned the greater societal costs of workup for false-positive test results, which the insurance
companies would cover since it would fall under ‘diagnostic’ tests
Although the story does not quantify the benefits, this is appropriate given that there is no
data on which to base the estimates
The story does mention the harms, which could be as minor as radiation exposure or as serious as
invasive follow-up tests (like biopsies) for false-positive test results
The story is correct in stating that there is no evidence that the scans are useful in people
with no symptoms.
No disease mongering
The story does a good job of quoting multiple sources who have
differing opinions on the technology
The author does not provide the reader with any alternatives. Other than doing
nothing, regular physical exams and appropriate screening tests (i.e. PSA, colonoscopy, mammography) are really the only
The story is correct that although the FDA does regulate
devices, it does not have a say in how they are used.
The story accurately depicts
whole-body scans as a new application of an existing technology