Tesco’s & whole body CT’s – Would you have one?
Tesco’s are in the news today for offering money off whole body CT scans using their clubcard points. The Society of Radiographers thinks it’s bad because there is no evidence that scanning healthy people means they live longer. The company offering the scans, LifeScan, thinks whole body scans are a good idea because such scans can allow early diagnosis of life threatening conditions.
What do I think? I would not have a whole body scan. There is no point in exposing yourself to radiation without good reason. I’m not against screening, I go for a smear test, but the benefits of screening have to outweigh the risks. As there is no evidence to suggest having a whole body scan (when you are healthy) means you will live longer and there is evidence that exposure to radiation mutates your DNA, I don’t think it is worthwhile. I accept that some scans, such as MRI and Ultrasound don’t use radiation, even then I don’t think the stress of following up an “abnormal” finding is worth the remote chance that it may detect a disease I am unaware of.
I personally think you are far better off to eat well, exercise and visit your doctor if you notice anything unusual (like weight loss, night sweats, blood in your urine, blood in your stools etc). See “Do you know a sign or symptom of cancer” for more information.
The best document I found for discussing the pros and cons of screening was written by a Public Health Consultant, in the NHS Library under Evidence called “Types of Screening can do more harm than good”, scroll down to “Related Files” and click on “go directly to the pdf briefing notes” it’s a 3 page pdf and well worth a read. For more discussion on the benefits and costs of a different type of screening (ultrasound studies of the heart) have a read of “Science-Based Medicine » Ultrasound Screening: Misleading the Public”
If you want a bit more in-depth information on screening for cancer (rather than the myriad of other diseases) then there is a book available through Amazon called “Should I be tested for cancer?”. I haven’t read it but I have added it to my wish list!
Bottom line? A whole body CT, no thanks, not for me.
PS Evidence does not mean a testimonial from one person saying “they found ….cancer, without the scan I would have died”. Evidence means large scale studies carried out on thousands of people with proper controls. More information on “The role of anecdotes” here.