Sunday, November 15, 2009

Do you glow in the dark?

The Globe published an article:

Experts urge tracking of X-rays, CT scans

X-ray technology has been around for decades, but the issue of radiation has been heating up as new research considers the health risks

 This is something I have pondered, but not for long. I am of an age when they recommend mammograms, but have not yet had one. I am unconvinced that, without symptoms or signs (e.g., lumps) that it is necessary and will detect cancer early.

There is radiation in X-rays mammograms and computed axial tomography (CAT or CT) scans. By the way, there is no radiation in Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or an ultrasound.
The Canadian Association of Radiologists(CAR) Estimates that up to 30 per cent of CT scans are inappropriate or contribute no useful information to help the patient.

Do You Need That CAT Scan? (PDF - CAR pamphlet)

The radiation dose from a CT scan is 100 - 500 times more than from a conventional X-ray. 

 I have written previously [See: Screening vs. diagnosis of cancer] about the concerns some physicians have with over diagnosis, or  prediagnosis of lumps, a normal part of aging. The statistics around this issue are scary. CBC quoted one physician as saying that there is a 5 - 6% error rate in mammographies. 
--For every one positive case there are 55 other women with diagnostic studies who have nothing wrong with them. (Dr. Marla Shapiro) 
Now, we have to worry about excessive radiation, too. 

The suggestion from the CAR, is to be your own advocate:
  • Question your physician [see Questions to ask your doctors   |   Questions to Ask the Doctor | Cancer.Net ]
  • Ask if it is medically necessary - e.g., do the risks provide a benefit?
  • Do not have X-rays or scans 'just in case'
  • If you have a scan done, ensure that it will be available for a consultation, or appointment with a specialist. You should not have multiple scans and unnecessary radiation.
  • Ask if the scanner is using 'reduced radiation techniques'. This is your right. Let them know what you know!
  • If you end up in emergency and they want to give a CAT scan, question them. You should have a diagnosis by a physician or a conference with a radiologist. 
The use of CAT scans have increased 8 times since 1980, and is growing by 10% per year. KNow what you need, vs. what you do not need for diagnosis. Ensure that the tests you have are necessary and correct. The use of CAT scans for children and pregnant women are dangerous. Children are growing, and their cells are sensitive. In the last 10 years, radiation imaging of pregnant women has increased 100%. These can be gene-altering X-rays.

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