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Originally published February 1 2005

Researcher says whole body medical imaging scans have no medical benefit

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

New research indicates whole body medical imaging scans (like CT scans) offer little in the way of long-term health benefits and may actually jeopardize patient care. The study indicated that whole-body scans added only about six days of life expectancy for the average 50-year-old male patient. The scans also have a high risk of false-positive findings, offering “absolutely no benefit to the patient,” said researcher Dr. G. Scott Gazelle of Harvard Medical School.

It sounds like a good idea: Regular computed tomography (CT) scans of the entire body, looking for aberrations that might signal early signs of disease. But a new study suggests these scans -- which cost about $900 apiece -- do little to boost long-term health, and might even undermine patient care. The study found that whole-body scans added just six days of life expectancy to the average 50-year-old male patient, and that each scan came with a high risk for false-positive findings that might necessitate further, expensive tests. "A very substantial portion of the total program cost would be related, then, to the work-up of these false positives, of absolutely no benefit to the patient," explained lead researcher Dr. G. Scott Gazelle, a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School. Over the past few years, private radiology centers specializing in full-body CT examinations have sprung up across the country. According to Gazelle, consumers can expect to spend an average of $900 each for these scans, which are typically not covered by Medicare or private health plans. Because a real-life study into the cost and benefits was not feasible, the Harvard team turned instead to a detailed mathematical model to help determine the cost-effectiveness of full-body scans. Burdens on the health-care system would be even greater -- Gazelle's team calculated that the amount of full-body screening needed to gain one patient one extra year of life would cost the U.S. health-care system $151,000. "The whole concept of screening, for me, is one of raising people's consciousness about the fact that there's now a tool available to detect three of the major killers in our society -- heart disease, lung cancer and colon cancer," he said.

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