These scans driving our world-beating cancer rate

Australia has world’s highest cancer rate and government protocol on CTs is a major contributor: doctor.

CT scans

Australia has the highest cancer rate in the world, according to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), and the government’s licensing arrangement for CT scanners is a major concerning factor.

That’s the view of Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, a former politician and anti-tobacco campaigner, who says government inaction on the use of CT (computed tomography) scanners is contributing to our sky-high cancer rate.

The WCRF says Australia has 468 deaths per 100,000 people, seven per cent ahead of NZ (438), 33 per cent ahead of the US (352), 40 per cent ahead of Canada (334), 47 per cent ahead of the UK (319), 59 per cent ahead of Sweden (295) and 89 per cent ahead of Japan (248). And our cancer rate has risen 22 per cent since 1982.

OECD data shows that Australia has more CT machines than any other country per million inhabitants, except Japan. And a CT scan, according to a University of Melbourne study of Medicare statistics, increases the risk of any cancer by 24 per cent. This increases another 15 per cent for each subsequent CT.

Dr Chesterfield-Evans said that when CT machines were introduced, the federal government licensed them, making them an investment being paid off through their use. “This created an incentive for more scans and scanners,” he said. “It was a very short term and expensive solution.

“When MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging scanners which do not use radiation) became freely available and proved to be a better and more sensitive modality for neuro, musculo-skeletal and soft tissue organs, the government was not going to make the same financial mistake, so only allowed MRIs to be licensed in small numbers.

“CTs continue to dominate the radiological diagnostic practices … with seemingly little knowledge or concern about the consequent radiation doses to the population.”

Dr Chesterfield-Evans said that as part of the restrictions on MRIs, GPs were not permitted to order them on Medicare, although they could order CTs.

“The diagnostic sequence then becomes a visit to a GP, a CT, a specialist referral, the specialist orders an MRI, and a second visit to the specialist to get the result and advise,” he said.

“Clearly, if the GP were to order the MRI and make a decision, it would save the CT and two specialist visits which would lead to a large saving. 

“Depowering GPs has increased medical costs and unnecessarily irradiated the population.”

Dr Chesterfield-Evans said that the use of CTs continued in areas even where they were not effective. 

“CTs are currently used to diagnose stroke, but have a false negative rate of 83 to 90 per cent, whereas a 90-second MRI has a diagnostic confidence rate of over 99 per cent. 

“MRIs do not have to be ‘tunnel machines’ and can be ‘multi-positional open units’, diagnosing individual body parts, replacing X-rays in limb fractures in emergency departments, or even have mothers holding their infants while they are scanned.”

He urged the governments to phase out CTs and increase the number and variety of MRI machines, noting that Australia had 14 MRI scanners per million population compared with 40 in the US and 56 in Japan.

“We should aim to have zero radiation risk in medical radiology, especially when this is now available,” he concluded.

Were you aware of the high radiation involved in CT scans? Will you now insist on MRIs?

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    30th Oct 2019
    you can get an MRI if you can afford it , or the specialist orders it , GP's cant
    30th Oct 2019
    The far greater cancer risk comes from factory farmed 'foods'. Did you know that 3 independent studies on traditionally-living First Nation people in Australia, America and Africa showed "extremely rare" (not found) incidences of any cancer (or most of the other diseases of nutrition). This was due to the high quality of wild foods which come with massive levels of phytonutrients now gone from modern produce.
    30th Oct 2019
    They probably have a lot less CT scans too!!!
    30th Oct 2019
    They probably have a lot less CT scans too!!!

    30th Oct 2019
    Excellent report, although I suspected this since 20 years ago - when I was asked to do a CT Scan which revealed nothing (the GP practically pushed me to do it), then I asked the Specialist to do a MRI (as he assumed there was no problem based on the CT), and the MRI revealed the problem precisely!

    The question has remained in my mind ever since - why did they push me to do a CT Scan which caused radiation yet did not reveal the problem, whereas the MRI (as the article noted with 2 Specialist visits costing me more) confirmed the problem precisely with NO radiation. Hope the dopes who decide these things WAKE UP.
    Life experience
    30th Oct 2019
    MRI’s much better and GP’s should have same power to order them as specialists. Then one less trip to specialist as we can arrive with the results. So less cost to patient.
    What I’ve seen is if referred by Gp for MRI it costs more to patient than being referred by specialist. Would have cost me $300 more being referred by GP.
    Chris B T
    30th Oct 2019
    On a litter note, I had so many CT scans stop counting at 50 plus.
    I must be a walking Power Station.
    Over use if you don't need it, But I didn't Request Them a Doctor Oncologist Did.
    You would hope they use the Best Option Available.
    Two rounds of Radiation Treatment 1. 36 gy 1. 70 gy
    Still alive, if you need it what are going to say No Thanks.

    30th Oct 2019
    Trust the moronic LNP government to be adding to the problem.
    30th Oct 2019
    Both my wife and myself have been sent to get a MRI scan, neither time did we have to see a specialist our GP sent us, the MRI was bulk billed, so I don’t know it it’s different in other states, we live in Wollongong in NSW and attended the PRP practice. I remember many years ago my GP told me it would cost $500 for a MRI scan unless it was performed as an in patient in hospital.
    30th Oct 2019
    It cost me $650.
    31st Oct 2019
    There must be a reason you had to pay, maybe there isn’t a bulk billing practise in your area, I know years ago my doctor told me it was going to cost me $500 for a MRI, but in recent times, within the last 2 years both my wife and myself have had a bulk billed MRI, and both times from memory our GP referred us, I have put an extract below from PRPs website that clearly shows your GP can refer you, it may depend on the complexity of the scan.
    31st Oct 2019
    Update on my comment, I have just booked in for a MRI tomorrow, I have been informed there will be an out of pocket expense of $250-$310 , so something has definitely changed.
    1st Nov 2019
    I had to go to the one the specialist told me to go to - " The others don't do it as requested!"
    Who am I to argue.
    30th Oct 2019
    1 NOV 2018
    One of the key initiatives of the Diagnostic Imaging Reform Package is to expand patient access to MRI services across Australia. This includes increased access to MRI services for primary care patients 16 years and over by extending requesting rights to GPs for a small set of clinically appropriate indications. GPs are able to request three new Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Medicare services for patients 16 years of age and over. GPs are now not able to refer patients aged 50 years and over for knee MRIs. I have just copied this from the PRP site, it clearly states that GPs can send you for a MRI scan.
    30th Oct 2019
    I don't know what the issue is. The MRI cost me heaps. They may not cause radiation issues however I really dread the feeling of being buried alive.
    31st Oct 2019
    Am informed that MRI scans can't be used by people who have older metal prosthesis like stainless steel. Many people may not be aware of the content of their metal implants, so wonder how they fare!
    1st Nov 2019
    Haha - like a cat hanging off the top of metal cage I guess!

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