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Do the benefits of annual CT scans outweigh the risks?

A new study shows that screening with CT scans reduce lung cancer deaths by 20% compared with X-rays. However, there is also concern that CT scans carry risks, including radiation exposure and complications additional testing and treatment from false alarms.

By Abha Bhattarai  |  November 4, 2010; 1:43 PM ET  | Category:  National Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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The benefits probably outweigh the risks in many cases, but do they outweigh the COSTS? If it's your father who is 65 years old and a heavy smoker, you probably want Medicare to cover the cost of the scan that might save his life. But are you willing to pay higher taxes? And given limited resources and limited willingness of citizens to pay taxes, is this a good use of government revenues? Would it be more just to cover screening for diseases that are not related to behavior like smoking?

Posted by: darwinist | November 4, 2010 5:45 PM

The benefits outweigh the risks in some cases. In screening for breast cancer, many tumors detected by CT scans are small and non-lethal. So, it depends of the situation. Lung cancer is probably a safe choice of annual CT scans in high risk patients (heavy smokers), but in otherwise healthy population this may not be truth.
This is news because it raises the wrong question. Does CT scans prevents deaths in cancer?
The answer to this is No, it just prevents mortality of lung cancer on people who once smoked or currently smoke heavily. This is very different, and a broader interpretation based on these results is not truth.

Posted by: angelpaternina | November 4, 2010 6:18 PM

My brother was treated for stomach pains by a Doctor he trusted. While visiting me, on my suggestion he went to a local hospital where a CT scan reveled he had a nodule on his pancreas, stage four. His Doctor was treating him for three years without a CT scan, and I think this was a huge mistake.

Posted by: Randy9 | November 4, 2010 6:52 PM

As long as the rest of us don't have to pay for these tests for smokers (or for their cancer treatments, either). I already don't know how I will continue to afford medical insurance when my COBRA runs out and I have to pay out of pocket.

Posted by: Itzajob | November 4, 2010 6:54 PM

I found that I have a Stage 1 adenocarcinoma in the lower lobe of my right lung "by accident". I had a strangulated intestine and was in great pain when I went to the emergency room where they suspected a kidney stone. An MRI showed the hernia problem and a "By the way". It showed a small mass, a biopsy showed it to be malignant and I will soon have a lungectomy. Without the serendipitous hernia problem, I would never have known until something else merited an MRI or it had reached Stage 2 or 3.

Posted by: stan75mill | November 4, 2010 8:10 PM

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