Public being misled by marketing of medical scans: New research reveals

    Poll shows public holds many misconceptions about safety and regulation
    of CT and PET scans

    OTTAWA, April 2 /CNW Telbec/ - Authors of a new study warn that private
clinics selling high-tech services to screen healthy people for disease could
be harming Canadians and placing an undue burden on the public health system.
    The study, entitled What's in a Scan? was published today by the Canadian
Center for Policy Alternatives ( The results of the
study found that there are prevalent misconceptions about the safety and
regulation of CT (computed tomography) and PET (positron emission tomography)
screening technologies.
    "What is most striking is that Canadians largely view these
'preventative' scans as safe and highly accurate, when in fact, they are often
neither," says Alan Cassels, the lead investigator of the study and a health
policy researcher at the University of Victoria. "Screening healthy people for
disease exposes them to risks from excessive radiation, and can create a flood
of false positive findings and unnecessary medical tests which ultimately
increases the workload on the public system."
    "People are sold on the notion that early detection of potential diseases
will always be a positive thing. Unfortunately, this is not the reality," says
Wendy Armstrong, an Edmonton-based health policy analyst affiliated with the
Alberta Consumers' Association and one of the study's authors.
    The researchers interviewed over 20 experts, analyzed the media reporting
and marketing of screening tests, and conducted a nation-wide public opinion
survey of 400 Canadians to determine how well consumers are informed about the
benefits and risks associated with screening.

    Among the poll results:

    - 42% of Canadians believe there are no risks or safety concerns related
      to the use of CT scans (which is not correct).
    - Nearly half of Canadians (47.5%) believe governments regulate or
      control the reasons for which these scans are used (when in fact they
      do not).
    - Nearly half of Canadians (48.9%) believe that CT scans deliver "the
      same" or "less radiation" than conventional x-rays (when in fact a CT
      scan of the chest delivers a dose of radiation equivalent to about 500
      chest x-rays).

    The use of the newest screening technologies such as CT and PET scans in
Canada is on the rise. "It's appropriate for health care professionals to use
CT-scanners to diagnose and treat cardiac or cancer patients," said Cassels.
"But selling heart, lung or full body scans to individuals who have no
apparent symptoms or are otherwise healthy is highly controversial, almost
unregulated and not condoned by professional associations of radiologists."
    The full report - What's in a Scan: How well are consumers informed about
the benefits and harms related to screening technology (CT and PET scans) in
Canada? - as well as a 2-page Consumer's Guide to Health Screening - are
available for download at:

    Funding of the research on which this report was based was received from
Industry Canada's Contributions Program for Non-Profit Consumer and Voluntary
Organizations. The views expressed in the report are not necessarily those of
Industry Canada or the Government of Canada.

For further information:

For further information: or to arrange an interview: Kerri-Anne Finn,
(613) 563-1341, ext 306; Authors: Alan Cassels, (250) 361-3120; Wendy
Armstrong, (780)454-9450

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Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

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