I believe the full body scan recommended by your physician is the
'Electron Beam Tomography' or 'EBT' scan. Here is a statement from a
website that provides a directory of information about this type of
"EBT Full Body Scanning is a term popularized on television and on a
variety of health programs and discussion forums. So described it is
now accepted by both medical professionals and the general public. A
growing demand for these screenings has been generated, nationally. In
actuality, the term "full body" has been applied to a scan of the
body's vital organs through Electron Beam Tomography (EBT). The body
area included extends only from the shoulders to the top of the
Under the scanning process the patient, fully clothed, lies on an
examining table. Once relaxed and reclining, an ultra high-speed
electron beam traverses the body area in mere seconds. Exposure to
radiation is minimal and produces 3-dimensional images for
professional evaluation. The exceptionally detailed graphics may be
viewed on site from every possible angle by the radiologist or
specialist present. Images may also be stored as computer files or
Before undergoing this very expensive scan, you are wise to want to
read some literature on the subject. You may find the material below
to be rather negative; an extensive search has failed to turn up any
articles that are unequivocably in favor of the routine use of full
body scans for individuals with no known diseases or significant
health risks. My examination of academic, medical, and popular sources
leads me to believe that the promotion of the full body scan as a
general diagnostic test is almost exclusively being done by firms and
individuals who have a financial interest in facilities which perform
full body scans.
(For copyright reasons, I am posting brief excerpts here; I recommend
that you read these articles in their entirety, as they contain quite
a bit of useful information.)
"The Food and Drug Administration is keeping an eye on full-body
scanning, although no policy pronouncements have been made. The agency
has only limited power over the use of the scanners... FDA concerns
center on the lack of scientific data or evidence that the scans are
useful. 'One question to us is, 'Just what is the benefit to the
patient?' There are really no studies that show that they help that
much,' Dr. Shope said.
Another problem, he added, is that many of the scans are done without
the use of an injected or ingested contrast material that better
accentuates the difference between normal and abnormal tissue, thus
raising the possibility that the quality of the scan is not the best.
Meanwhile, Robert Smith, PhD, director of the American Cancer
Society's screening program, doesn't mince words on the issue. 'It's a
waste of money and a bad idea,' he said.
'As cutting edge as the technique seems, we do not know whether this
test is even as good as other conventional screening tests that have
been around for a long time,' he said... And Robert Stanley, MD, chair
of the Dept. of Radiology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham,
called it a serious mistake for radiologists to be offering the scans
to asymptomatic, healthy adults."
American Medical Association: American Medical News
Here is a statement issued by the American College of Radiography on
September 28, 2002:
"The American College of Radiology (ACR) recognizes that an increasing
number of computed tomography (CT) screening examinations are being
performed in the United States. Much CT screening is targeted at
specific diseases, such as lung scanning for cancer in current and
former smokers, coronary artery calcium scoring as a predictor of
cardiac events and CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) for colon
cancer. Early data suggest that these targeted examinations may be
clinically valid. Large, prospective, multicenter trials are currently
under way or in the planning phase to evaluate whether these screening
exams reduce the rate of mortality.
The ACR, at this time, does not believe there is sufficient evidence
to justify recommending total body CT screening for patients with no
symptoms or a family history suggesting disease. To date, there is no
evidence that total body CT screening is cost efficient or effective
in prolonging life. In addition, the ACR is concerned that this
procedure will lead to the discovery of numerous findings that will
not ultimately affect patients' health but will result in unnecessary
follow-up examinations and treatments and significant wasted expense.
The ACR will continue to monitor scientific studies concerning these
American College of Radiography: ACR Statement on CT Screening Exams
"You've seen the full-page ads. Dozens of clinics nationwide are
touting a new service for health-conscious people: full-body CT
scans--high-tech computerized X-rays that promise early warnings for
cancer, cardiac disease, and other abnormalities.
But the practice is controversial because the long-term benefits and
risks have not been researched. The Food and Drug Administration has
approved the CT X-ray system only as a diagnostic tool to be used when
symptoms exist, or when there is reason for further testing. But no
studies have been done to support using CT scans for screening people
without symptoms, or when there is no suspicion or indication of a
problem or disease.
Thomas B. Shope, Ph.D., a radiation physicist in the FDA's Center for
Devices and Radiological Health, says the agency's concern is that
'some of the kinds of things screening CT may find are not necessarily
of any health significance.' In addition, because no screening test is
100 percent accurate, the FDA is concerned that many people will get
false-positive results, leading them to seek additional, possibly
risky tests or surgical procedures. While there is a small danger of
this when symptoms exist, its occurrence is far more probable when
they do not. Further, the use of any X-ray imaging procedure is always
accompanied by a concern about the possible effects of radiation
"The effective dose from a CT procedure can be hundreds of times
larger than the effective dose from a conventional radiographic
procedure," says Shope.
...Therefore, although the device was approved as a diagnostic tool
for specific purposes, the FDA has limited authority to control how it
is actually used... The American College of Radiology'"does not
believe there is sufficient scientific evidence to justify
recommending total body computed tomographic (CT) screening for
patients with no symptoms or a family history suggesting disease.' The
organization says there is no evidence that the procedure is either
cost-effective, or effective in prolonging life.
Robert Smith, director of cancer screening at the American Cancer
Society, says his organization also 'discourages full-body scanning'
for the same reasons."
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
"Full-body CT scans -- widely promoted in advertisements as a way to
give yourself peace of mind -- frequently find harmless abnormalities
that lead to invasive, anxiety-producing follow-up tests, researchers
And they may be a waste of money for patients under 40, who run a low
risk of serious disease, the study suggests.
'This got pushed to the public before any of the research was done,'
said Dr. Giovanna Casola of the University of California at San
Diego... Casola and colleagues studied 1,192 patients ages 22 to 85
who had full-body scans at private, for-profit imaging centers. They
presented their findings Tuesday in Chicago at the Radiological
Society of North America's annual meeting.
Forty-six percent of the scans showed abnormalities, most in the
lungs, kidneys or liver. About 25 percent were suspected cancer; 15
percent were other significant ailments such as emphysema; and just 1
percent were strongly believed to be cancer or some other
life-threatening disease. Thirty-seven percent of the participants
were advised to have follow-up tests... Other research has shown that
follow-up tests usually determine that scan-detected abnormalities are
insignificant. Casola said that is probably the case with many of the
study participants, though data on subsequent testing generally was
...Many physicians are skeptical of the scans because they have not
been well-studied, said Dr. Stephen Swensen, the Mayo Clinic's chief
of radiology... 'There's no medical society in the world that
recommends this,' Swensen said."
CNS News: Are Full-Body Scans A Scam?
"One of the most aggressively marketed, potentially lucrative and
undeniably controversial procedures in medicine is the full-body
scanning of symptomless patients, many of them well-heeled baby
boomers hurtling toward 50.
Free-standing scanning centers, some located in shopping malls and
many owned by radiologists, have sprung up in affluent metropolitan
areas offering a comprehensive, painless, noninvasive, head-to-pelvis
examination of the body's internal organs -- including the brain,
heart, liver, lungs, prostate and ovaries -- for a $700 to $1,300 fee
that is rarely covered by insurance.
...Total body scanning is based on the premise that finding cancer or
heart disease or a brain tumor at its earliest stage makes it easier
to contain, reverse or cure the problem, the article notes. For
healthy patients, the knowledge that nothing serious is wrong conveys
peace of mind in the form of a clean bill of health, the [Washington
Post] article adds.
But critics say the practice is unproven, ill-advised and potentially
dangerous, the article notes.
CT technology, the article explains, is far too imprecise to be used
as a mass screening tool, even though it will inevitably find a few
people with cancer or serious heart disease or a brain tumor. Indeed,
the American College of Radiology issued a statement last year saying
it did not endorse such scanning, the article notes.
...Critics also worry that radiation exposure could increase the risk
of developing cancer, especially in those who undergo repeated scans,
the article goes on. One estimate, the article says, is that one
total-body scan exposes a patient to the amount of radiation
equivalent to 400 to 500 chest X-rays."
Allied Health Journals Health Biz News: Full-Body Scans for the
Healthy Stir Controversy
"Food and Drug Administration officials are worried that the growing
popularity of full-body scans for early health screening might be
exposing thousands of Americans to unnecessary and potentially
Facilities offering full-body computed tomography, or CT,
examinations, which are heavily advertised and expensive, are
sprouting nationwide, luring affluent consumers who think they are
buying peace of mind with the promise of early warning for cancers,
heart problems and other diseases.
But, FDA officials say, clinics and other facilities are giving
healthy consumers higher-than-conventional doses of radiation that are
unlikely to do any good... The FDA approved the scanning devices to
peer into individual sites on the body where illness is suspected, but
it cannot stop doctors from using them for full-body scans.
The advanced technology, which is part X-ray and part computer,
produces three-dimensional images of the inside of a person's body.
The images are clearer than those of X-rays, and they make it possible
to detect abnormalities earlier.
But for people without symptoms, many doctors believe the risks from
the radiation more than offset the benefits from the unlikely
detection of some types of early cancers or other diseases."
Mercola.com: Reconsider Having Screening Full-Body CT Scans
Some additional reading:
Johns Hopkins University: A Full Body Scan for Everyone?
Imaging Economics: Invasion of the Body Scanners
CNN: Body-scanning Basics
The San Diego Channel: Full Body Scans May Not Be Wise For Some
Mercola.com: Body Scans Offer False Reassurances
If you decide to opt for this scan, the closest facility for you may
be Heart Check Los Angeles, which offers an EBT full body scan for
$800. Pricing and contact information may be found here:
Heart Check America
Two other options are Full Body Scanning of Orange County (cost not
listed) and the University Imaging Center at UCLA ($795):
Full Body Scanning
University Imaging Center
There is also an EBT facility in San Diego (price not given):
Search terms used:
'full body scan'
'whole body scan'
'total body scan'
'electron beam tomography'
I hope this material will be helpful. Please keep in mind that Google
Answers is not an authoritative source of medical advice; this
information should not be regarded as a substitute for the services of
a medical professional. If anything I've said is unclear or
incomplete, if a link does not function, or if you have a question
about my research, please request clarification *before* rating this
answer; I'll be glad to offer further assistance as needed.