Though saving lives, CT scans can be harmful if misused

By Sara Story - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - CT scans have revolutionized internal medicine. According to doctors, it is the most powerful image producing technology we have available. Despite this, new research suggests radiation from the scans can be dangerous. In fact, it may lead to the death of thousands of Americans.

A director of radiology says that, if mis-used, CT scans can be harmful, but the technology is saving millions of lives. CT scans give doctors a quick and painless look inside your body.

"Surgeons need that information to go in and take care of those patients and make them whole again," said Barry Borel, the Divisional Director of Radiology for Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals.

Martha Burch has had a CT scan. Her husband had several before he died.

"He went to the hospital early one morning," said Burch. "He couldn't breath and it seemed like a stroke maybe. That was the first thing they did was a CT scan. And, when they suggested it, of course, we said OK."

It is a story that is common among Americans as CT scan use increases. An estimated 70 million were performed in 2007.

"More people than not were putting them in either directly near or right in the emergency departments across the country," said Borel.

Despite their benefits, new research finds that radiation from the scans may increase the risk of cancer. The study claims that scans performed in 2007 will result in 29,000 cancer cases, killing nearly 15,000 Americans. Borel says CT scans are only dangerous if mis-used or over-used.

"The technology is amazing," said Borel. "It provides valuable and necessary information for treating physicians when a person needs it the most."

He says the best thing to do is ask your doctors questions, and don't have multiple CT scans in a short time period.

"Don't just agree because that this is what my doctor tells me this is what I have to have," said Borel. "There are alternatives."

"I'd say, 'Why?' and ask a lot of questions about it," said Burch. "You have to have trust."

Borel said that children are more sensitive to radiation and may be over treated if they get adult doses. To reduce these risks, make sure doctors adjust the radiation dose to a child's size and age.

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