|TOO MUCH RADIATION|
March 3 2009 National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement
I was just having this conversation with a patient yesterday and later I came across this study.
Americans are exposed to 7x more radiation from diagnostic scans today than they were in 1980. Experts are saying that doctors are overusing the tests for profit and raising health risks for patients. The findings add to already mounting evidence that doctors are ordering too many diagnostic tests, driving up the cost of health care in the United States and potentially harming patients.
Ever since John Goffman's landmark work, "Radiation and Human Health", I've been disseminating information about the health risks of diagnostic radiation. Diagnostic scans can give us valuable information, but too much radiation exposure may cause cancer, especially in younger people. Some say imaging technology is a financial incentive for some doctors to cash in. They make more money by referring patients to get imaging tests on equipment in their own practices. So when a doctor has a financial interest in promoting diagnostic scans performed in his or her own office, it sets the stage for vast overuse.
Spending on medical imaging doubled between 2000 and 2006 to reach about $14 billion a year, and that is just for Medicare spending alone, according to a study by the Government Accountability Office. A 10-year study by University of California, San Francisco researchers found the use of CT scans doubled between 1997 and 2006.
These diagnostic scans-MRI, CT, mammograms, etc., should be used with caution because they expose your body to ionizing radiation-which, no matter how small the dose, causes cancer. A CT scan of the chest for example, exposes you to 100x the radiation of a regular chest X-ray. CT scans given to kids are typically calibrated for adults, so children absorb two to six times the radiation needed to produce clear images. It has been estimated that overuse of diagnostic CT scans may cause up to 3 million excess cancers in the next two or three decades.
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