More MS news articles for January 2001

Low-Cost Brain Scans A Click Away

Site Provides Locations Of Inexpensive Labs

Wednesday January 10 02:00 PM EST

Federal health authorities recently did brain scans on 1,000 normal, healthy volunteers. Three of those volunteers had undetected brain tumors.

That may not sound like a lot, but itís vastly more than what had been believed was the incident rate for brain tumors. Multiplied out, there may be 6,000 people in Manhattan alone with undetected brain tumors.

MRIs fit that bill perfectly, except that they're expensive, costing more than $1,000 a scan.

For Dr. Patrick Kelly, a national authority on brain tumors at New York University Medical Center, itís a deeply frustrating fact.

Kelly formed a brain tumor foundation that has convinced MRI sites to provide low-cost brain scans. You can find the sites and even make an appointment online for less than $200.

And the scan could find more than brain tumors.

"I think the reason we're not curing them is because we're finding them too late, because by the time the tumor becomes symptomatic or triggers a seizure or a neurological disorder or a headache, that tumor has invaded far beyond the region of the brain that we can remove safely," Kelly said.

Alan Pesky had an MRI brain scan, although he doesn't have headaches or blurred vision or any symptom of a brain problem. However, he did have a son who had some odd symptoms that finally called for a brain scan.

"He took a CAT scan and came up about 20 or 30 minutes later. He was white as a sheet and said, 'Your son has a massive tumor at the base of his brain.' The surgery was Aug. 24 or 25, and he passed away Nov. 6," Pesky said.

As fast as it was, Lee David Pesky's death was actually about average in the length of time from diagnosis.

The doctor argues that brain tumors likely go through a long, minimally malignant phase, perhaps lasting years, during which they could be safely removed and possibly cured. The trick to saving lives is to find the tumors at that early stage.

"There are other things you could find, like aneurysms, arterial malformations, stroke, evidence of multiple sclerosis or things that could get you into trouble," Kelly said.

It was an eye-opener to hear a renowned brain surgeon say that all of the modern technology and therapy available has made brain tumor surgery safer and has prolonged life for a few months but that overall, mortality is still virtually unchanged.