Radiation exposure is not just a function of a catastrophic disaster such as Chernobyl. What about Cat Scans, otherwise known as CT’s? We have a plethora of technology available to us to look inside ourselves and see tumors, plaque, abscesses, hemorrhages and other maladies. CT has had a profound impact on the practice of medicine and had indeed been a terrific technology allowing us to avoid unnecessary exploratory surgery.
The Archives of Internal Medicine in December 2009 reviewed “Cancer Risks and Radiation Exposure form Computed Tomographic Scans.”The researchers found a 13-fold difference in radiation dose between the highest and lowest that occurred within and across institutions. “The articles in this issue make clear that there is far more radiation from medical CT scans than has been recognized previously, in amounts projected to cause tens of thousands of excess cancers annually. Also, as these scans have become more sensitive, incidental findings lead to additional testing (and often more radiation), biopsies, and anxiety. They question the need for screening CT’s as well as the frequency of follow up. “The one year change in Coronary Artery Calcification does no appear to be a suitable surrogate end point for treatment trials in patients with Cardiovascular Disease or chronic kidney disease. “ In the article “Projected Cancer Risks from CT Scans Performed in the United States in 2007, the overall conclusion was an estimated 29,000 future cancers could be related to CT scans performed in the US in 2007. Consider the risk of the screening scans for your entire body, your heart or other areas. While these may be valuable in select cases, yearly screenings could significantly increase your risk of developing cancer.
All of us want the latest technology and absolute assurances about our health and if a CT is not ordered, may feel slighted. Before you hastily jump to conclusions, consider the risks and benefits, especially when you are considering screening CT’s. So if you seek the assurance of an Executive Physical consisting of a full body CT scan and/or virtual colonoscopy to detect early cancer, you may want to consider your radiation exposure. There are many other ways to get screened. Seek the advice of a preventive medical expert.