Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Radiation and Cancer

It is not my intention to regurgitate the day's news in my daily blog, but to point out health topics that are either obscure or muddied up by the popular press. Of course, I also like to discuss effective treatment options or prevention methods for disease.

Today though, I am repeating a news story but only because I have been writing about this issue with significant concern both here and in the blog precursor that was an email newsletter.

For at least five years I have known that CT scans expose persons to dangerous levels of radiation and if I have been writing about it, it is because other health professionals were bringing my attention to it. It wasn't good enough for action however, people had to get sick before something more substantial could be said.

Now we hear about two separate studies that are indicating a significant increased risk of new cancer in persons receiving CTs. In fact, one study suggests that over 14,000 deaths from 29,000 new cancers are related to the CT scan.

Of course, not everyone agrees that the CT are the cause. It is a fair argument that a person with a preexisting condition or predisposition may be scanned and then develop a cancer they would have already developed - for example, a smoker. Still, this alarm has been sounding for years and the scans have been ordered with very little regard for the added risk.

I continue to believe that the risk is real. And the story I noted a few weeks about the over radiation for the brain scans has gotten worse, with up to 600 cases of the uber radiation and more than the two or three facilities previously noted. That investigation continues.

Some things to keep in mind and watch out for are convenience exams (i.e. the md can't see the recent one because you do not have it with you so another is ordered), exams because clinicians fear a law suit for NOT doing one, having scans because the clinician is part owner in the facility that has the scanner, whether or not the American College of Radiology has certified the center and if the miligrays we talked about previously are set correctly, and lastly, if you really need one. Ask the clinician if the situation can be evaluated in a different manner.

These new findings may lead to some warning about the traveling scanning caravans that you can attend without your doctor's suggestion. I hope so as they play on peoples' vulnerabilities and are simply for profit ventures.

There are reports that some machines are putting out as much radiation in one scan as over 400 regular XRays... now, if you have ever had an insurance company decide that you did not need to have a CT, maybe you can now consider that a GOOD thing.

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