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Why is the brain not checked during yearly examines?

Posts: 22
Joined: Apr 2009

Why is the brain not checked during yearly examines or periodically? Why do we have to present symptoms in order to get a cat scan? The majority of our organs are examined yearly and insurances paid a percentage. People keep asking me if I suffered from headaches, dizziness, etc. If these are some of the signs of a possible brain tumor, I ask my question again: Why is the brain not checked during yearly examines or periodically?

the_liz_army's picture
Posts: 39
Joined: Mar 2009

Good question. I've often asked it myself, but I keep coming to the same conclusion:

99% of people who ask for an MRI are probably hypochondriacs that think their headaches are migraines. If medical organizations gave in to the whims of everyone who asked for an expensive scan they'd waste a lot of money. (Plus, the wait time for scheduled MRIs would be longer.)

Plus, brain tumors are rare. Out of 1,000 MRIs, I wonder how many show a brain tumor?

davidbdailey's picture
Posts: 20
Joined: May 2009

I agree that this is a good question. At least do a scan when we are at certin ages or if you have problems. Catch them before they grow too BIG.

Posts: 22
Joined: Apr 2009

Hello David:

Thank you for responding. I am so glad to hear that others have the same question. I feel that a standard CAT scan should be done at any age. After all, we have young children, teenagers, young adults, etc. with brain cancer. The intension of a yearly or periodically examine is to be preventive and proactive with your health; which in the long run is cost effective to the insurance companies and to the families.
Since, I was diagnosed I find such little information on brain care and we have so much on other type of cancers, such as breast, prostate and the importance of a yearly examination. As if, these are the only organs that can get cancer.
This has been very frustrating for me not to find the same attention in health care to the brain.
Thank you again for your response and if you come across any group that maybe in pursuit to change how we treat the brain health care, please let me know.

God Bless

Posts: 22
Joined: Apr 2009

Hello the liz army:

Thank you for responding. A MRI and a CAT scan are two different tests. I know that a MRI has a higher cost than a CAT scan and maybe able to pick-up the tumors in more details. My tumor was pickup by the CAT scan and per my doctor, for the tumor to have grown to the size of a tangerine, it was growing for over 20 years. I do understand the cost of these tests and all the hypochondriacs out there; but when it comes to your health, and the trust we place in the medical profession, they should be able to screen out those types of patients. I believe that the brain should be given the same respect as other organs in the body. After all, it is our CPU and should be handled with the same medical care, just like the heart, lungs and all other major organs in our body. I often asked myself how many people are dying from brain tumors that go undetected due to lack of closer medical examination or fear that the insurance or family members may not be able to pay for the test.
Again, thank you for responding Liz.

darrahchris's picture
Posts: 9
Joined: Jun 2009

Diagnosed in 2000. M. D. Anderson told me that my tumor had been growing 4 20 plus years. Never caught all those years, even though I had symtoms. I think the insurance companies would go CRAZY if MRI's started showing up alot. It's a SHAME. But that's life, or unfortunately sometimes death.

Posts: 52
Joined: Oct 2008

I agree that brain tumors are exceptionally rare; most people will never get one. The most common kind of brain tumor, GBM, is only diagnosed in about 10,000 new people every year. I personally would never agree to a yearly CAT scan as part of an exam. CAT scans use the most radiation out of all the basic diagnostic scans, including X-rays. Of course there's risk with MRIs, no one's quite sure of the effect of subjecting a person's body to such high doses of magnetic waves either but they know it's not good over time.

You'll be interested in this, it looks like Senator Kennedy's Cancer Bill (S. 717 called 21st Century Cancer ALERT- assess to lifesaving early detection, research and treatment-Act) is being marked up and is likely to go directly to the floor of the senate for a vote either this week or next week. Brain cancer does get specific mention in the bill.


You can check out the details of the bill, if anyone co-sponsors the bill, and if any progress is made from this site.

I think people naturally assume that all ppl have headaches with a brain tumor and that's why they ask. Of course that's not true but I think it's the same as assuming a person with lung cancer had a nagging cough and that's how they found their cancer, that's not always true or that a person with breast cancer found it with a mammogram, that's not true either. The general public is probably asking you based on what they're assuming.

I had a textbook brain tumor but either I did not complain enough or my doctor was not astute enough. She would not write a script for an MRI, not even after I had a scan 5 yrs prior to my diagnosis that showed abnormal signaling in the right frontal lobe and the radiologist that read the scan said it was from either scarring from trauma or an early neoplasm. Which do you think it was, Haha!! I ended up having my mom taking me to the ER March 2007 because I couldn't get off the living room floor b/c of my headache and I was extremely dehydrated from vomiting; a CAT scan there showed a mass in the right frontal lobe.

Good Luck,

Posts: 1
Joined: Jun 2009

I myself were miss diagnosed for many years before my brain tumor was found. Although I went to my pediatrician almost every week with head pain, he did not catch on to the fact that something more then just "childhood migraine syndrome" could be going on. When they discovered the tumor it was about the size of a male fist, or moderate sized orange. One major reason I could think that yearly scans are not being done on everyone is, it's not possible. If every patient were scanned, there would be no room/time for the people that need them. Also, certain areas of the brain can only take so much radiation before they star to die off.

the_liz_army's picture
Posts: 39
Joined: Mar 2009

I asked a friend of mine who is a general care physician and this is what he wrote:

Great question. The answer is quite simple. There is no evidence that body scans save lives. For example, in the 1970s it was thought that doing annual chest xrays on smokers would improve lung cancer survival. So a study was done. It took a group of VA veterans all who were smoking and 1/2 the group got annual chest xrays and the other 1/2 no xrays.

The group that received xrays annually did find lung cancer growths in otherwise asymptomatic people. Although we patted ourselves on the back, did surgery, and gave them chemotherapy, the shocking part of the story came later.

This group did NO better in survival that the group that didn't get chest xrays. In other words smokers with symptoms of shortness of breath, weight loss, coughing up of blood, survived just as long as the group that was getting annual chest xrays.

Therefore this "screening test" of annual chest xrays did nothing. A good screening test identifies problems early and doctors and patients when aware of the problem earlier can do something about it and improve survival. Otherwise if it finds illness earlier but does not better than no screening test, it isn't helpful.

Body scans don't have any evidence of improving lives. An ongoing trial is underway to see if lung CT scans in smokers is better than chest xrays, results will be out in the next few years.

Also, body scans have radiation. A body scan could have radiation exposure equivalent to 200 chest xrays. Radiation, unnecessarily, is a risk factor for cancer as well.

lawslegal's picture
Posts: 38
Joined: Aug 2005

Five years ago my then 13 year old son got suddenly ill in the middle of the night. We rushed him to the hospital where we were told he had a reputred brain tumor. He had absolutely no signs of anything being wrong. He had just gotten a clean bill of health at his physical. Later we were told that he was probably born with this tumor. He is brain were checked earlier, he would be in much better shape today. Don't get me wrong, he is doing great and we are thankful he made it. He is now 18 years old and uses a walker. It would have been nice maybe to have found the tumor before it ruptured..............

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