The Full Picture About Full-Body Scans

December 31, 2006

Several of my patients have asked me about full-body CTscans.

Several of my patients have asked me about full-body CTscans. Under what circumstances (if any) would such scansbe indicated?
---- MD

In my opinion, such scans are not indicated--unless apatient has obtained thorough and frank informed consentfrom a physician who has no financial interest inthe decision. At the Mayo Clinic, we have been studyinglow-dose spiral CT screening and whole-body CTscans for lung cancer for more than 5 years. We have performedmore than 6000 scans on 1520 participants in astudy protocol funded by the National Cancer Instituteand the Mayo Foundation. This research has yieldedsome interesting possibilities, but at this point there is noevidence that such testing reduces deaths from lung canceror other causes. Moreover, more than 80% of participantsin the study had a finding that prompted additionaltesting--and more than 95% of the results of these testswere false-positives.Based on all the available data, it is unclear whetherfull-body scans would do patients more harm or good.I believe this is the primary reason why no professionalsociety currently recommends whole-body screeningor CT screening for lung cancer (except in investigativework).The research currently under way should yield resultsthat will allow us to make an evidence-based determinationon this issue in the future.
---- Stephen J. Swensen, MD
Professor and Chair
Department of Radiology
Mayo Clinic
Rochester, Minn