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Full-body CT scans – helpful or merely hype?


5 Star

Full-body CT scans – helpful or merely hype?

Our Review Summary

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.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?


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

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


Although the story does not quantify the benefits, this is appropriate given that there is no

data on which to base the estimates

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


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

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


The story is correct in stating that there is no evidence that the scans are useful in people

with no symptoms.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease mongering

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


The story does a good job of quoting multiple sources who have

differing opinions on the technology

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

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


Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story is correct that although the FDA does regulate

devices, it does not have a say in how they are used.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story accurately depicts

whole-body scans as a new application of an existing technology

Total Score: 9 of 10 Satisfactory

Comments (1)

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Geroge Collins

August 13, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Paying over $700 for a full body scan, should get me some sort of benefits -like reliable feed back on potential heath problems. Taking people’s money for nothing, is fraud. How about if those services promote disease, like cancer; or just contribute to new health problems?. The FDA should fully and aggressively regulate, any and all, medical related services. Salute.