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Whole-Body Scans for Cancer Prevention: What You Need to Know

September 13, 2017

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A whole-body scan is an extensive test that uses computed tomography (CT) to produce detailed images of the entire body. Based on the marketing claims of certain practitioners, some of whom assert that this type of testing can potentially detect early-stage cancer, the popularity of whole-body scans for screening purposes is on the rise. But, is this test really worthwhile as a preventive measure for a healthy individual who does not have any symptoms or risk factors? This topic is subject to some debate within the medical community.

With regard to cancer prevention, whole-body scans are generally not considered to be reliable enough to justify the risks and costs of their routine use in the general population. In many cases, this testing proves to be nothing more than a waste of time and money. Sometimes, it can also cause undue worry and potentially even result in health damage from unnecessary radiation exposure.

With that said, there are some exceptions that apply to certain individuals. For instance, regular whole-body scans may be of some benefit to people who have an elevated risk of developing lung cancer, including those who currently smoke or have a long history of smoking.

If you’re wondering whether a whole-body scan would be appropriate for you, your best source of information is a physician who is familiar with your unique circumstances. Your physician can review your overall health risks, perform an individualized assessment and explain how a scan may or may not help you. Additionally, for detecting lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer and other common malignancies, you may have a more effective alternative to a whole-body scan.

Moffitt Cancer Center has developed several comprehensive cancer screening programs. For instance, we have been designated a Screening Center of Excellence by the Lung Cancer Alliance for our lung cancer screening services. We are continually investigating new ways to promote early detection. Our patients also have access to the latest diagnostic technologies and risk-reduction programs, such as smoking cessation assistance.

If you’d like to find out if you could benefit from preventive cancer screenings, contact Moffitt Cancer Center to request an appointment. To get started, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.