New research by the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that one third of CT scans are unnecessary, and too much radiation can increase your cancer risk. Doctors are collectively asking patients to get over 80 million radiation-based imaging tests each year, yet many people aren’t told about the risks. On your next visit to get a CT scan, you should ask these questions:
- Why is the test necessary? Patients should not refuse a test if it is needed. However, you should also maintain your right to ask exactly why a test has been recommended, how it will help you and about the consequences, should you skip the test.
- Is there a safer alternative? Sometimes, you could have the option of ultrasounds or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which does not expose you to radiation.
- Is your doctor credentialed: Ask whether the radiology facility is accredited by the American College of Radiology, (the ACR’s accreditation process addresses dose and image quality, unlike some other accreditors), also ask if the CT technologists have authorization from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, and if the person interpreting the studies is a board-certified radiologist or pediatric radiologist.
- What is the right dose? Your radiation dose depends largely on your size; the smaller you are, the lesser dose you need.
- Can we go with a prior scan? If you have a prior scan of the same area, it may be a good idea to ask if you can use the previous one.
These are the important questions you should remember to ask next time you are at the clinic to get a scan because knowing every step along the way is crucial for good health.