Recently the media has been doing a lot of coverage on radiation exposure from medical imaging procedures. When our patients come in, that’s almost always a topic that we get asked about. Patients want to know how much radiation they’ll be exposed to during their procedure, and how that might affect them in regards to their health. “It’s great if you find something during my CT scan, but will that really matter if the radiation from it gives me cancer?”

Because this is such a huge concern for many patients, we thought it would be a great idea to delve a little deeper into the topic. Experts are agreed that for small imaging procedures such as x-rays or mammography, the risk of radiation exposure is very minimal. With higher radiation-dose tests like CT and nuclear imaging, though, there’s a bit more concern.

We found a great article that we were able to pull some information from, and it explains how higher doses of radiation can potentially lead to cancer:

“The radiation you get from x-ray, CT, and nuclear imaging is ionizing radiation — high-energy wavelengths or particles that penetrate tissue to reveal the body's internal organs and structures. Ionizing radiation can damage DNA, and although your cells repair most of the damage, they sometimes do the job imperfectly, leaving small areas of "misrepair." The result is DNA mutations that may contribute to cancer years down the road.”

It’s been noted that children who are exposed to high-dose radiation for cancer treatment are more likely to develop additional cancers as they age, but there’s little evidence to prove that healthy adults who have medical imaging procedures are particularly affected.

Nevertheless, it’s highly recommended that patients try to limit the amount of radiation exposure they receive. Keep track of any medical imaging procedures you’ve had over the years so that your doctor can get an idea of how much radiation you’ve already been exposed to and keep that in mind when they’re proposing treatment options for injuries. Also, don’t request high-dose procedures unless a doctor recommends it. Many people request a CT scan simply for “peace of mind”, to make absolutely sure that their doctor didn’t miss anything. Doing so only results in unnecessary exposure to radiation.

Although the idea of being exposed to radiation can be a scary one, it’s not one that most patients have any reason to fear. If you’re concerned about the subject, sit down with your doctor or our staff and let us know how you’re feeling. We’ll do everything we can to speak honestly and openly about the risks, effects, and science behind each procedure.