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J Am Coll Radiol. 2005 Apr;2(4):311-20.

Promoting an ethical approach to unproven screening imaging tests.

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Biomedical Ethics, Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, The University of Texas-Houston Health Sciences Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


The use of screening imaging technology such as electron beam computed tomography and computed tomographic scans for the early detection of coronary artery disease, lung cancer, and other diseases is rising, even though they have not been proven to reduce disease-specific mortality. Until randomized, controlled trials assess the efficacy of these tests as screening tests, they will remain controversial. It is unclear whether the potential benefits of these screening tests outweigh the risks. In a practice environment in which public demand and enthusiasm for screening is high, radiologists can recognize the ethical issues associated with unproven screening imaging tests; understand current national policies toward professionalism and informed and shared decision making for screening; draw on the lessons learned from the proliferation of another unproven screening test, the prostate-specific antigen blood test for prostate cancer; and work with others in the health care system to promote an ethical approach to screening imaging tests.

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