CT Scans - X-Ray on steroids - what are the dangers?

The following is from an MSNBC article in 2002:

>>>>>May 20 issue —  Dr. Craig Bittner wants to save your life, and he believes he has just the tool. In the time it takes to perform a traditional chest X-ray, any one of his four AmeriScan Body Imaging Centers can generate a high-resolution CT (computed tomography) scan that illuminates your whole inner torso, from neck to pelvis. True, it costs nearly $1,000, and few health plans will touch the bill. But unlike a mere chest X-ray, this test promises to spot “major killer diseases like stroke, aneurysms, cancer and lymphoma,” not to mention gallstones, kidney stones and osteoporosis. “We save someone’s life every day,” Bittner says.<<<<<

MSNBC's take was a bit different from Dr Bittner's view:

>>>>But it’s one thing to test a high-risk patient for a particular problem—quite another to screen healthy people at random, viewing any blemish on any organ as a possible cause for concern. The radiation from a full-body CT scan isn’t likely to harm you, but it’s 500 times the amount you’d get from a chest X-ray. Some centers are now pursuing MRI scanning (which doesn’t involve radiation) as an alternative. Still, high-resolution images are of limited use when you don’t know what you’re looking for. Is that spot on your lung a malignancy? Chances are it’s nothing, but once visible it’s hard to ignore. As the American College of Radiology warned last summer, many of the findings “will not ultimately affect patients’ health but will result in increased... anxiety, unnecessary follow-up examinations and treatments, and wasted expense.”<<<<<

Now we know more about CT scans and they do deliver a lot of radiation!

The WIKI article confirms a significant higher dose of radiation than a chest X-Ray and another article in US News and World Reports states the radiation from a CT scan is above the lifetime "safe" threshold for radiation and that many of these scans are given unnecessarily.

Still another article predicts that CT scans will be responsible for 29,000 cases of cancer in the future.

I agree with the American College of Radiology that avoiding unnecessary radiation is a good idea.  Radiation is a known cancer risk.

The take-away message might be to avoid all unnecessary tests and/or opt out of a CT scan if you can, in favor of an MRI.  Best of all, live a healthy lifestyle with frequent exercise and healthy food choices to avoid illness.

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