Excess Radiation Exposure Linked to CT Scans

A former U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientist was eliminated from his position after expressing disapproval of a <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_medical_devices">CT scanner for use in routine colon cancer screenings, said Healthier Talk, citing the Seattle Times. The scientist was concerned with the test’s health risks.

At a public hearing on the issue the scientist said he “objected to exposing otherwise healthy patients to the cancer risks of radiation” and that “scientific and regulatory review process for medical devices was being distorted by managers who were not following the laws,” quoted Healthier Talk.

Excess radiation can pose significant health threats, both immediately—especially in the case of an overdose from a single scan—and in the long-term, following routine CT scans and mammograms, noted Healthier Talk. For instance, said Healthier Talk, citing the New York Times, a hospital in Philadelphia incorrectly dosed over 90 prostate cancer patients last year.

In 2005, a hospital in Florida admitted that 77 patients with brain cancer were delivered 50-percent more radiation than prescribed due to a system malfunction that went on for about one year, wrote Healthier Talk. Over 200 patients undergoing CT brain scans at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles received eight-to-ten times the normal dose of radiation due to incorrect machine programming, added Healthier Talk. These are no small issues given that, under normal circumstances, noted USA Today, CT scans deliver more radiation than realized previously and could be a factor in some 29,000 new annual cancers, and 14,500 deaths.

Another study found that radiation exposure could be up to four times as much as noted in prior studies, said USA Today. Based on current measurements, one patient could be receiving the radiation in one CT scan that is equivalent to either 74 mammograms or 442 chest X-rays, wrote USA Today.

Experts feel that while CT scans are an important life-saving medical tool, they may be ordered more often than necessary, explained The Chicago Tribune previously. Overuse of CT scans could be linked to upwards of three million excess cancers in the USA over the next 20-to-30 years, according to a recent study cited by USA Today. “About one-third of all CT scans that are done right now are medically unnecessary,” said David Brenner of Columbia University, lead author of a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, quoted USA Today.

With emerging research revealing links between cancer and radiation delivered via diagnostic testing, some practices and figures are worrisome. For instance, nationally, the 2008 average for double CT scans of the chest was five percent and for the abdomen was 19 percent, said The Tribune. Consider this, every double chest CT scan exposes the patient to a massive 700 times more radiation than a chest X-ray; double abdominal scans dose the patient with 22 times more radiation, said The Tribune.

According to a prior Associated Press (AP) report, Americans receive the most medical radiation worldwide, with the United States accounting for about half of the more sophisticated procedures using radiation. The AP noted that the average American’s dose has increase six-fold in recent years.

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