Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scans help doctors detect everything from kidney stones to tumors. That’s partly because CT scans yield much higher resolution images than conventional medical x-rays. The downside is that they also expose the patient to sometimes thousands of times the amount of radiation of a medical regular x-ray.
Many experts recognize that this is a big problem.
There's been an explosion in unnecessary CT scans over the past 10 years which means hundreds of thousands of Americans are facing unnecessary, horrible deaths from CT scan induced cancers.
What should you do if your doctor orders CT scan for you or your child?
Each year more than 1.5 million American children receive at least one. Researchers say you should think twice. The extremely large doses of radiation from these scans are not innocuous. Many patients are prescribed multiple, unnecessary CT scans which often stems from a lack of communication between physicians. Having the same scan done twice simply because one doctor “didn’t get the memo” is simply ridiculous. Actually, it’s tragic when you consider it’s a mistake that could double the chance of developing cancer from the procedure.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that radiologists often expose those children to doses of radiation far greater than is safe for their age and weight -- by some estimates, up to six times more than what is needed to produce clear images.
Developing radiation-induced cancer is at higher risk for children. The reason is children are much more sensitive to radiation because of the way their cells divide. Their DNA is much more susceptible to damage. While the risk of an adult developing cancer from a CT scan is about 1 in 2000, for a child the risk goes up to 1 in 500.
In some cases a CT scan is a necessity. To diagnose severe head trauma or internal injuries, to diagnose an existing cancer, or acute abdominal pain, an ultrasound or MRI will not do the job. But that doesn't make the fact that nearly 30,000 people in the US alone get cancer every year from CT scans any less alarming.
Compounding the problem, it's not always easy to tell when a CT scan's levels are in the danger zone.
When radiation levels are too high on traditional X-rays, images appear overexposed; it's easy to see that something is wrong. With CT scans, the picture is so good it's not likely to be compromised, even when radiation levels are way above normal, according to the American College of Radiology.
"This is one reason that many centers don't even recognize that there is a problem," said Kevin Roche, a pediatric radiologist at New York University Medical Center.
Why are so many CT scans prescribed in the first place?
There's a long list of reasons but here are a few:
Why CT scans are hazardous to your health.
- Doctors are worried that be sued for malpractice if they'll cover all the bases.
- Full body CT scans are advertised as a way to find everything that could be wrong with you. Many peoples see a full body scan as a proactive measure.
- Some patients request a scan because they're worried there may be a hidden problem that simply hasn't shown up yet – former smokers fit into this category.
The radiation from CT scans causes:
How to protect yourself.
- DNA changes that lead to cancer
- Chromosomal mutations that lead to aggressive cancers.
- Misdiagnosis and false positives
Whenever possible, simply avoid x-rays. Keep in mind that sometimes a CT scan is necessary. But always ask your doctor if an MRI or an ultrasound can be performed instead. They have fewer harmful side effects and many times can do the job just as well. Don’t put you or your child at risk for the perceived benefit of high tech scanning.