The Truth About Whole-Body Scans


Take a drive round sure neighborhoods in Los Angeles and chances are you’ll spot as many indicators promoting physique scans as burger joints. Or possibly you have seen the advertisements on TV or the web: “Defend your well being! Get a physique scan now!” 

Are whole-body CT scans actually ready to try this – and what are the dangers? And are DEXA scans a great way to examine in your physique composition?

Scans for Well being Checks

Whereas applied sciences differ, most of those high-tech checkups use computed tomography (CT) scans to look at your complete physique or particular components, such because the heart and lungs, to attempt to catch harmful illnesses in earlier, extra curable phases.

Throughout the 15- or 20-minute scan, you lie inside a doughnut-shaped machine as an imaging machine rotates round you, transmitting radiation. The approach combines a number of X-ray pictures and, with the help of a pc, produces cross-sectional views of your physique. By analyzing the views, a health care provider can search for early indicators of abnormalities.

The scans aren’t low-cost – whole-body scans run wherever from $500 to $1,000 per scan and normally aren’t reimbursed by insurance coverage. And the query of how useful these scans actually are is a matter of debate amongst medical consultants.

Advocates promote scans as a wise a part of a routine physical exam. However in case you’re wholesome, with no worrisome signs, a scan is normally not warranted, says Arl Van Moore, MD, a radiologist and scientific assistant professor of radiology at Duke College Medical Middle in Durham, NC, who can also be a spokesman for the American School of Radiology (ACR).

In keeping with the ACR’s official place, there’s not sufficient proof to suggest scans for these with no signs or household historical past suggesting illness. However Van Moore sees a potential exception. “There could also be a profit to folks at excessive danger of lung cancers, reminiscent of present people who smoke or these with an extended historical past of smoking,” he says. 

For wholesome folks, the scans could trigger undue fear – as an example, by discovering one thing that seems to be benign. Plus, the quantity of radiation publicity, particularly with frequent scans, is one other concern. If scans are completed too usually, the radiation publicity may very well enhance the variety of cancer instances over the long run, based on a 2004 report within the journal Radiology.

The American School of Preventive Drugs says that whole-body scans “aren’t superb at discovering most cancers in folks with out signs” and that the radiation you get from these scans can enhance your danger of most cancers.

Who Wants a Excessive-Tech Checkup?

Earlier than scheduling a physique scan, discuss to your physician about your general well being dangers and the way a scan could or could not enable you. Particularly, ask your self:

  • What’s your historical past? Do you might have a private or household historical past of lung disease, coronary heart illness, or particular cancers?
  • Did you inhale? Are you a longtime smoker?
  • If that’s the case, how lengthy? Even in case you’ve quit smoking, for what number of years had been you an lively smoker?


What if You’re Getting a Scan to Test Your Physique Fats?

This can be a completely different sort of scan, referred to as DEXA (twin power X-ray absorptiometry). You might need heard of DEXA scans to examine on bone density to see when you have osteoporosis or osteopenia. It makes use of low-level X-rays to examine in your physique composition, like how a lot physique fats you might have and the place it’s in your physique. 

There are numerous methods to measure your physique fats. Experts have told WebMD prior to now that DEXA scanning is a “superb approach” and “one of the vital correct strategies on the market.” And researchers have referred to as it the “gold commonplace” for checking on physique composition – particularly, for bone, fats, and muscle. However it’s not coated by insurance coverage, except you’re getting a DEXA scan to display screen for bone density. The price of a DEXA scan varies, beginning round $75 in some instances.


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