In the wake of some high profile lung cancer news this month, an AP story today by Marilynn Marchione, "Smokers Flock to Hospitals for Cancer X-Ray," reports on the stampede of smokers who are signing up for CT scans that could potentially spot tumors long before they show up on a conventional x-ray. The deaths of ABC newsman Peter Jennings and Dallas star Barbara Bel Geddes, and the recent lung cancer diagnosis of Dana Reeve, wife of actor Christopher Reeve, have heightened U.S. cancer awareness.
As we wrote last month, advances in digital imaging techniques are producing stunning CT images that look more like living tissue and less like black-and-white x-rays. Marilynn's article quotes individuals who have signed up for the $300 scans -- not necessarily covered by insurance -- in order to get "piece of mind" rather than the diagnosis of a current condition. The resolution of CT scans is so good that minor lumps and bumps may cause false positives for cancer, potentially resulting in unnecessary biopsies and surgeries.
While some eminent physicians have recommended early CT scans, the American Cancer Society, the federal government and "a raft of cancer specialists" caution against the test until a huge new study proves that such early detection is worthwhile -- so that it would be covered by insurance. One hospital lung specialist even stopped her at-risk 82 year old mother from getting scanned. Maybe it means a possible false positive, but it seems to me that $300 is small price top pay for your mother's piece of mind.