Saturday, April 21, 2012

Family Medicine Activist: Radiation Safety- Who Cares?

In 2010, 80 million CT scans were done in the United States.  In 15-20 years, those scans will have generated 30,000-60,000 cancers in the recipients of the 2010 CT radiation by conservative estimates.  I have concerns about the amount of imaging done in our country.  The business models of the CT owners and users may be driving the use of CT more than the clinical decision making processes of the physicians ordering the scans.  Will it slow down?  No way.  Here's a good article published this year by the American Cancer Society in CA A Cancer Journal for Clinicians:

Cancer Risks Associated With External Radiation from Diagnostic Imaging Procedures

Should you be informed of the benefits and potential harms of a CT scan if someone recommends one for you?  Do you know even one person who went to an ER, got a CT scan (or two, or even three) and was informed of the potential benefits and harms of the test?  I am a physician--I don't.  I now ask patients daily (OK 3 or 4 days a week) if they received what's called Informed Consent forms to read and sign before they got a CT scan.  NO ONE gave informed consent for the CT scans.  NOT ONE PERSON remembered giving  INFORMED CONSENT for their ER CT scan.  NOT ONE.

If a test could lead to an increased risk of cancer, does a patient have a right to know that in deciding whether to go ahead with the path recommended by the physician they just met in the ER?  Or even their personal physician?  Should patients be informed?  Should patients care about radiation safety?

What do you think?


  1. I am a Health Physicist with almost thirty years experience. All of the efforts to reduce the exposure in the workplace, (in nuclear power plants, for example), are being "undone" by the massive increase in radiation exposure via CT scans. I agree with the Dr's comments. No one is asked for consent forms, almost none of the patients are made aware of the exposure that they will receive from the CT scan. This will be a huge issue once the public becomes informed of the radiation induced cancers that could have been prevented. Kudos to the Dr and Drs who are bringing up these issues and discussing them with their patients. Also much more needs to be done to make alternate methods to CT scans, such as sonograms and MRI. We have to control this source of radiation, and balance the risk versus the benefit, or we will see these increased cancers in the population. This will be known as a problem that could have been prevented.

  2. There are places now who suffer much due to neglect in Radiation Safety. The government and even us should be responsible enough to avoid the negative effects of these wastes.

  3. Thank you for your comments and concerns about radiation safety. Continuous pressure is needed to keep the appropriate people aware of what should be happening to protect people from unnecessary radiation.