According to an article on CT scans and cancer published in the Nov. 29th New York
Times, millions of Americans are needlessly getting dangerous radiation from these “super X-rays,” The article expresses concern that the scans raise the risk of future cancer development so that within a few decades, as many as 2 percent of cancers in the United States may be due to radiation from CT scans that are given now.
The article can be read by clinking here
Despite this ominous sounding prediction we have to remember a number of things. The survival rate from many cancers would go down if we did not have CT Scans available for diagnostic proposes. During the course of treatment it is important to be able to accurately access treatment progress, sometimes CT scans are the best way to do this.
In realty, I don’t think anyone is suggesting that CAT scans are not safe and should not be used. But the amount of radiation in one CT scan is equivalent to a couple of hundred dental X-rays so the CAT scan is not a tool to be taken lightly.
We need to be concerned in a similar manner to as we are about drug side effects, you have to weigh the risks against the benefits. People should not be having CAT scans without a specific reason for the scan. Full body CT scans should not be offered to the general public as a part of a general check-up. The scan should also not be used too early in the diagnostic process unless there are supporting issues suggesting that the scan will help in the actual diagnosis of a suspected cancer.
Unfortunately many people insist on scans when they are not needed. Sometimes the doctor caves into the patient’s request for an unneeded scan just to placate the patient or sometimes doctors have a financial interest in center that performs the scans. Often doctors are concerned about being sued by a patient if they are not given a scan and they are later diagnosed with some type of solid tumor.
Scans are an important tool when used wisely. You should not refuse them if your doctor suggests you have one, but do ask your doctor why it s being suggested and if there is a more benign alternative would provide the required information.
Joel T Nowak MA, MSW