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Dr. Adam Sonabend Discusses Free MRI Program & Early Brain Tumor Detection

Dr. Adam Sonabend
Dr. Adam Sonabend

Dr. Adam Sonabend spoke with Boston CBS affiliate WBZ-TV recently, about a program to bring free MRIs to people who may need them.

In fact, the MRIs are almost brought to the patients’ doorsteps. The program, sponsored by The Brain Tumor Foundation, is called The Road to Early Detection. It uses a van outfitted with an MRI machine and travels to various cities for the project.

Patients who have scheduled scans in advance can come to the van’s location, and get their MRI done for free, usually in less than ten minutes.

First launched in 2008, the MRI scans were initially only offered in New York City, but the program has been expanded nationwide.

A lot of people have neurological symptoms or a reason to be concerned but cannot get an MRI to be covered by their health care plans. That is where the Brain Tumor Foundation can help. Anyone can get a free MRI through this program, as long as they are 18 years old or older and have a primary care physician that can receive the scan results. If there is anything abnormal in the scan, the primary care doctor can refer the patient to a specialist.

Appointments are made through The Brain Tumor Foundation‘s website.  All scans will be reviewed by the Columbia Department of Radiology.  Questionnaires filled out by applicants will be analyzed with the MRI results by doctors at Columbia University. The program also has as an advisor, Dr. Jeffrey N. Bruce, who is the co-director of Columbia‘s Brain Tumor CenterDr Bruce is also on the scientific advisory board for The Brain Tumor Foundation.

The results of the questionnaires and the scans are analyzed by Dr. Alfred Neugut and Dr. Grace Hillyer for studying brain tumor epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University Medical Center. Some initial information about the incidence of brain tumors has already been discovered, and at least 30 patients with brain tumors have been found through the program.

The MRIs are not diagnostic, but can identify abnormalities. This means that they can only tell if there is a possible problem. If there is anything abnormal in the scan, the primary care doctor will refer the patient to a specialist. There may also be cases where the MRI fails to see an abnormality.

Dr. Sonabend stresses that not everyone needs to have an MRI. Unexplained symptoms that might be related to a brain tumor are reasons that someone might seek out an MRI.

The Brain Tumor Foundation‘s hope is that by increasing the availability of scans for people who are experiencing symptoms, more brain tumors will be detected and treated earlier.

“If you detect brain tumors early and intervene early,” Dr. Sonabend says, “You can possibly increase survival rates, at least for some of these tumors.”

The Road to Early Detection program should prove a useful tool in the fight to better patients’ odds against brain tumors.

See the full WBZ-TV feature, Brain Tumor Foundation Offers Free Scans in Bostonhere.

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