Children’s Hospitals Cut Down On CT Scans To Prevent Cancer

When your children are sick, it’s hard not to want doctors to do everything in their power to cure them. But when it comes to CT scans, less is often more.

That’s because CT scanners — which use X-rays to produce richly detailed images of almost any part of the body — deliver far higher doses of dangerous ionizing radiation than any other commonly used medical imaging device. And children, for a host of reasons, are even more susceptible to the carcinogenicity of ionizing radiation than adults.

Scientists have, of course, understood the risks of ionizing radiation for nearly a century. For a couple of decades after the advent of CT scanners in the mid-1970s, though, doctors generally believed that CT scans delivered such a small dose of radiation that they didn’t endanger patients’ health. But a growing body of evidence shows this could be a mistaken belief.

Dr. Rebecca Smith-Bindman of the University of California-San Francisco, a leading expert on the effects of medical imaging, told The Huffington Post that research suggests just one CT scan can triple a child’s risk of developing some types of cancer. As many as 1 in 300 children who get a CT scan of the abdomen, chest or spine will eventually develop a tumor as a result of the radiation, she said.

“The doses used for CT are in the same range where we’ve seen direct evidence of harmful effects,” Smith-Bindman said. “The median dose that people got in Hiroshima was 40 millisieverts. And we find that those are doses that patients get all the time.”

The prevailing belief that CT scans were relatively harmless allowed their use to grow exponentially over the past couple of decades. Yet there are signs that children’s hospitals, at least, are starting to take the risks —> Read More