By: Candida Katsitsaionne Rice, BScN, CSLT,

At first glance it sounds like it might be a good idea, but there’s actually more to consider before getting a scan.  They are offering ‘peace of mind’ to people who may not be suffering from any symptoms but who would like assurance that they have little to worry about.  This may in fact do the exact opposite.  Test results are not always simply positive or negative. 

If you're healthy, with no worrisome symptoms, a scan is usually not warranted, and for healthy people, the scans may cause undue worry. 

Some scans may pick up changes which they detect as being abnormal when in fact they are nothing to worry about. You will be given the worrying news that a problem has been found and will go through all the stress (and possible risks) of having further tests to check it out.  This is called a ‘false positive’ test result. 

Or you might think that getting the 'all clear' would bring you peace of mind. In fact, there's evidence that this reassurance is short-lived, and many people start worrying again within months. What's more, a 'normal' result may allow you to kid yourself into thinking that your unhealthy lifestyle habits aren’t doing you any harm which could weaken your resolve to tackle them.  It may also be that this one test is not picking up any abnormality.  This is called a false negative test result and creates a false sense of security.

Scans are valuable when used by a doctor, in conjunction with a health assessment, to help diagnose patients with symptoms or patients at high risk, but when used to screen the general population of mostly healthy people long before symptoms are present, they are likely to be useless or even to do more harm than good.

The decision to get screened is a personal one, and best made with good information and the advice of a trusted health professional.  You want to ask questions and expect reasonable detailed answers concerning the test’s potential benefits or harms.  Before scheduling a body scan on your own, talk to your doctor about your overall health risks and how a scan may or may not help you.

For information on health screening guidelines you can contact the KMHC Community Health Unit at 450-638-3930 or the Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health @













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