Friday, June 04, 2010

Is that CT scan really, really necessary?

In the July 10, 2010, Good Housekeeping, Melody Peterson takes on the subject of CT scans—yes, they can detect things an x-ray misses, but are often ordered almost routinely.

I personally have had two weird dizzy spells and each time was given a CT scan. These puppies can cause cancer, you know…it’s a lot of radiation. Sometimes as much as 100 times a chest x-ray.

Each time, my brain was described as “unremarkable,” which I tried to think of as a good thing.

70 million CT scans are done each year—double that of 10 yrs ago.

CT scans can detect tiny things—grain of rice size. Their use has cut unnecessary appendectomies from 42% to 7% in one study (Duke).

One-third to one half of all scans are not needed, though. Often one is done and then an MRI (no radiation) is also ordered.

Radiation accumulates and can manifest as cancer 20 years later. You can’t undo it.

CT scans can also find cysts, lesions and other things that aren’t a problems—doctors call these “incidentalomas.” Treatment may be prescribed, though, or further tests.

Even physicians, in one study, didn’t seem aware of the huge amt of radiation involved.

The article also brings up the possibility that doctors who have invested in this equipment like to use it. You can get the mag and decide on that.

You probably need a CT scan if you can’t breathe, have a huge pain in a limb or your head (clot), and so on. But those full-body scans or routinely when going to the ER for something…try to ask about it.

At very least, check out the facility.

Keep track of how many you have had. And get a digital version to give to another doctor. This is one test you don’t want done over…just because.


Star Lawrence said...

I got to thinking and I have had five scans in my life...I wonder if I am doomed. Of course, I always wonder and we are all doomed.

Star Lawrence said...

Goos story on overtreatment.

Copy the url and click. Hope it works.

Josip Skoko said...

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Star Lawrence said...

You can google it--also I read recently that they are working on a CT with less radiation. The important thing is that it's cumulative--over a lifetime.