• Rationale and Comments

    Whole-body scanning with a variety of techniques (magnetic resonance imaging, single-photon emission computed tomography, positron emission tomography, CT) is marketed by some to screen for a wide range of undiagnosed cancers. However, there are no data suggesting that these imaging studies will improve survival or improve the likelihood of finding a tumor (estimated tumor detection is less than 2% in asymptomatic patients screened). Whole-body scanning has a risk of false-positive findings that can result in unnecessary testing and procedures with additional risks, including considerable exposure to radiation with positron emission tomography and CT, a very small increase in the possibility of developing cancer later in life, and accruing additional medical costs as a result of these procedures. Whole-body scanning is not recommended by medical professional societies for individuals without symptoms, nor is it a routinely practiced screening procedure in healthy populations.

    Sponsoring Organizations

    • American College of Preventive Medicine


    • Expert consensus


    • Oncologic
    • Preventive Medicine


    • Ladd SC. Whole-body MRI as a screening tool? Eur J Radiol. 2009;70(3):452-62.
    • Schmidt G, Dinter D, Reiser MF, Schoenberg SO. The uses and limitations of whole-body magnetic resonance imaging. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2010;107(22):383-9.
    • Full-Body CT Scans – What You Need to Know, Radiation-Emitting Products. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [Internet]. Silver Spring, MD: U.S. Food and Drug Administration; 2010 [updated 2010 Apr 6; cited 2014 Dec 5]. Available from: http://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/RadiationEmittingProductsandProcedures/MedicalImaging/MedicalX-Rays/ucm115340.htm.

    These recommendations were originally created as part of Choosing Wisely, a partnership between American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation and specialty societies that was active from 2012-23. More than 70 specialty societies have identified commonly used tests or procedures within their specialties that are possibly overused and whose necessity should be questioned and discussed with patients. Learn more about the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) involvement with the Choosing Wisely campaign and the specific Choosing Wisely recommendations that the AAFP supports.