CT Scan and Radiation Risk For Cancer

Does excessive radiation cause cancer? It’s a question that has concerned me, particularly about  the CT Scan. This test is used to diagnose many conditions such as colon cancer, brain tumours, lung problems and angina due to blocked coronary arteries.

Studies suggest that about 2 percent of all cancers are caused by CT Scans. The U.S. National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, claims that 14,000 additional malignancies a year are due to CT scans of the abdomen and pelvis, 4100 due to chest scans and 2,700 from diagnosing blockages in coronary arteries.

I reported years ago that X-ray radiation varied from one diagnostic center to another. In addition, the amount of radiation from CT scans is much greater than in a conventional X-ray.
A lung CT scan subjects patients to the same radiation as 100 routine X-rays of the lungs. An abdominal CT scan provides the same radiation as 500 chest X-rays! This exposure to ionizing radiation can trigger changes in the DNA that leads to a malignancy.

CT scans are valuable and necessary to diagnose disease. But when about 80 million are done annually in the U.S. some of these are of questionable value. For instance, of CT scans ordered because of a headache, only 2 percent found a treatable condition.

The message. If a doctor orders a CT scan, ask if it’s absolutely necessary. Studies show that doctors do not put enough emphasis on the risk and benefits of CT scans and other tests that expose patients to radiation.