A point of concern consistently brought up in the media and among health specialists is the quantum of danger or risk that medical imaging can lead to. There is doubt, fear and confusion among those receiving treatments as to if they are subjecting themselves to unwanted life risks due to radiation exposure from medical imaging.
Mammograms, bone density tests and computed tomography scans have a high radiation exposure that can increase the risks of getting cancer. Especially so, healthcare professionals are concerned over these higher radiation dose tests like CT and nuclear imaging.
CT scans and nuclear imaging has managed to replace the once normal ‘explorative surgery’ which was a highly risky procedure. One should also keep in mind that risk from a single CT scan is negligibly small.
The risk from ionizing radiation
Ionizing radiations are present in X-ray tests, CT and nuclear imaging. These tests contain high energy wavelengths or particles that penetrate tissue to reveal the body’s internal organs and structures. One of the much-feared risks from these ionizing radiations is that they can cause damages to the DNA. This could lead to DNA mutations that can elevate the risk of cancer down the line.
If one wants to understand the rate of increase in radiation through medical imaging, consider this: a couple of decades back, the radiation from natural sources are the same as today. However, the radiation exposure that humans go through has almost doubled. And the root cause of the problem is identified by many as medical imaging.
Ionizing radiation and cancer risks
Data from several studies have projected that those children subjected to radiation treatments for lymphoma or other cancers are likely susceptible to cancer later in their lives as well. However, we have only negligible data with respect to how true this phenomenon is in healthy adults. The only data is from survivors of atomic blasts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Another factor to contend is that the harmful effects of radiation if any are going to appear only after a period of time post the radiation.
Given the fact that radiation is high only in CT and nuclear imaging, you needn’t worry much unless you’ve gone through radiation treatment in your youth. However, it’s still possible to make sure that you are not affected by more radiation by taking care of a few simple actions.
You can discuss high-dose diagnostic imaging tests with your clinician or doctor before taking it. It would also do well to keep track of your X-ray history. Whenever possible, after consultation with a doctor try and go for a lower dose radiation test. Less frequent testing may also help the cause. A detailed talk with your healthcare specialist will help alleviate most of the problems that you may be worried about with respect to radiation risks.