Legal Articles

July 17, 2013

CT Scans increase children’s risk of cancer

A new study has found that “each year more than four million CT scans are performed on children, and they are increasing the risk for future cancer.” Scientists and doctors have long known the risks of exposure to radiation. That’s why they take such pains to limit patients’ exposure when they have to have x-rays. You’ve likely noticed that doctors are careful to focus x-rays on just the affected parts of the body. Often, patients will wear lead aprons to protect the rest of their body from the rays. However, CT scans require extra exposure that doctors can’t seem to limit and this makes the scans especially dangerous to children.

CT scans administer high levels of radiation

Between 1996 and 2010, researchers counted how many children under 15 received CT scans and calculated their dosages of radiation. Though the results varied widely, they found “up to a quarter of children with a single abdominal scan received 20 millisieverts or higher.” Keep in mind, the average dose for such an x-ray is 0.1 milllisievert.

Lower doses reduce cancer risk

Due to CT scans, the scientists say that 4,879 more children per year will develop cancer at some time in their lives. However, “if the highest doses . . . could be reduced to match the average dose, future cancers would be reduced by 43 percent.”

CT scans used to diagnose internal trauma

CT stands for “computerized tomography” and it comprises several x-rays taken to give a full cross-section view of a person’s tissues and bones. According to the Mayo Clinic, CT scans are most often utilized to diagnose bone and muscle disorders, locate tumors, provide insight prior to surgery, detect heart disease, and detect internal injuries. It especially comes in handy after a car accident for quick and efficient diagnosis of a person’s trauma.

Parents should ask questions

However, there may be times when a CT scan is not the only option. To prevent misuse or overuse of this scan, doctors should carefully weigh all their options before prescribing one. The study’s lead author, Diana Miglioretti, suggested parents ask whether the scan will really impact the child’s medical care prior to one being administered.

“If the doctor says he needs the CT, then the parent should ask, ‘What are you doing to make sure the dose is as low as possible?’”


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