Full body CT screening is being promoted as a potentially life-saving procedure, but is it?
The advent of rapid multislice computed tomography (CT) scans means the whole body can be scanned in less than one minute, and very high resolution images in any plane can be created in around five minutes. The application of this in an unstable patient with severe multi-organ trauma is clear. However, ‘full body (brain, neck, chest, abdomen and pelvis) CT screening’ is now being promoted for the early detection of diseases, particularly cancer, with the claim that it may save lives.
To meet this claim, full body CT screening must be able to detect a clinically undetectable abnormality that would otherwise cause death and that can be treated with life-saving or significantly life-prolonging interventions. Can it achieve this? In examining this question it is worth looking at the results to date of an established screening program such as mammographic screening for the early detection of breast cancer.