Sigh. . . the marketers do a very good job. They market for self-referral. “The price is coming down. . . “ “Wouldn’t everyone like to know. . .? “ But, there are significant risks and I imagine it would be the rare person that would be relieved after a whole body scan. In fact 80% of older patients will find at least one abnormality with the mean being three findings per patient.
Here are the risks:
- Detection of “incidentalomas” which is what we call insignificant things in the body–found incidentally, but now we need to decide if we should biopsy or remove.
- High false-negative rate (the scan misses something important)
- High false-positive rate (for example, we find old scar tissue which looks like something concerning)
- Increased rate of overdiagnosis
- Overexposure to radiation (500-1000 times higher than routine chest x ray)
- Physical damage caused by objects moving in soft tissue during magnetic imaging
- Unnecessary examinations or biopsies
- Unnecessary exposure to intravenous contrast (like barium)
- Unnecessary patient anxiety (and who can blame you. . . you now know about physical conditions that may never affect you. . . or they might)
Here are some organizations recommending against whole body scanning
- American Heart Association
- American College of Radiology
- American association of Physicists in Medicine
- Health Physics Society
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force
Consider what information you’ll know that you can’t ever NOT know.