Can an Airport Scanner Detect a Medical Issue?

Playing Can an Airport Scanner Detect a Tumor or Medical Issue?

A viewer tweets The Doctors sharing that she was traveling last month and every time she walked through an airport security scanner they would pat her down because it looked like there was a mass near her left groin. They wouldn’t find anything but she wonders, can the scanner be detecting a tumor or another medical problem? 

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ER physician Dr. Travis Stork says actually, yes! He shares there have been unique circumstances where these scanners have led to a diagnosis. The machines are using radiofrequency waves to scan for abnormalities or bulges so it makes sense. If you keep getting pat down at the same spot, Dr. Travis recommends getting it looked at by a doctor.

Dermatologist Dr. Sonia Batra explains the technology is changing and since many airports are going from backscatter X-rays to radiofrequency they are able to detect more. She shares a case from JAMA Dermatology where someone had a 1.5 cm cyst and it kept getting picked up by the scanner so she eventually had to travel with a doctor’s note.

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Plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon says he supposes other things like lipomas (fatty lumps) or lipodystrophy (abnormal distribution of fat) could also show up on machines so it would make sense to have a doctor’s note in those circumstances.