Monday, November 22, 2010

Quitting smoking vs CT scans: cost, risks and benefits

There is lots of talk in the news right now about scanning - mostly about the kind in airports and whether it is too great an invasion of privacy. But medical scanning has also been making headlines - specifically, whether we do too much of it unnecessarily, as CT and X-ray scans expose the body to radiation, which has risks. Recent reports indicated that CT scans of smokers may reduce their risk of mortality by 20%, which may suggest the exposure to radiation is worth the risk. However, as Laura Gottleib points out in the San Francisco Chronicle, prevention is a cheaper and lower risk option. 87% of lung cancer is caused by smoking and CT scans aren't going to eliminate that - they are simply going to help us catch and treat the lung cancer earlier. Preventing people from starting smoking, minimizing (or eliminating) exposure to secondhand smoke and helping people quit prevent lung cancer from developing.

What about the cost? According to Gottleib, the cost of scanning all former and current smokers in the United States is roughly $30 billion per year. In contrast, California's Tobacco Control Program decreased adult tobacco use by 35 percent, saving $86 billion in health care costs. How does she get at that HUGE savings? For every $1 California spends, it reduces statewide health care costs by $3.60, according to research done by Tobacco Free Kids.

Advances in early detection and treatment are great, but let's not forget the value of prevention!

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/11/21/EDKC1GEUHP.DTL#ixzz161rYIMli

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