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Friday, July 09, 2010

Radiation is medicine’s best friend

When is the last time you had a CT scan? Probably not too long ago since Americans get the most medical radiation in the world. It is hard to believe the U.S. accounts for half of the advanced technology using radiation, like MRIs and CT scans. We’re getting it six times more today than we did 20 years ago. Many caregivers blame this on a litigious society that forces the medical community to overcompensate. reports that one radiologist tracked patients at two hospitals who had had 10 or more CT scans, 5 if they were over 40, both considered dangerous amounts. The results were 50 people over a three-year period, including one young woman with 31 abdominal scans.

In a recent hospital visit, I checked into emergency for a surgery incision sore that wasn’t healing, and with hardness around it diagnosed as a hematoma. The immediate option was to take a CT scan which they did, which resulted in me being checked into the hospital. Several hours later, an orderly came to take me back to the radiation department. They were going to take another CT scan—now this is just within hours—on the same area, for the same reason.

Obviously I declined and told them to have the one taken at the emergency room sent to them, which they eventually did. Now, agreed, the hospital was different than the original emergency room, but either correct records of my visit weren’t sent to the hospital, or the caregivers at the hospital didn’t pay attention if they were. Because of the earlier surgery, I had already had at least one other CT scan within the last two months.

What’s risky? The latest comparison is with Chernobyl’s 1986 nuclear power plant accident, and survivors of the dropping of the atom bomb in Japan. Each had exposures of 50 to 150 millisieverts of radiation. A chest or abdominal CT scan, which I had, involves 10 to 20 millisieverts.

Combined with the other two or three scans I had earlier, I am at least 20 percent on my way to potential cancer due to medical scans.

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