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The Dangers of CT Scans and X-rays

A CT scan can lead to a diagnosis of your symptoms, but can it also do more harm than good? Learn about common medical imaging tests and your risks of radiation exposure.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD
5-minute read
Episode #127

What to Consider Before an Imaging Test

To find out whether or not a patient really needs that CT scan, it’s important that the doctor knows:

  • The patient history

  • Their age

  • Their response to previous therapy

  • The list of potential diagnoses (the “differential diagnoses”)

  • The physical exam

  • How good of a candidate they are for surgery?

  • Is it the correct test to order in the first place?

  • Will it affect their management?

  • Does the patient want to act on the worst case scenario?

Also, if you’ve had prior imaging studies to view a certain organ, make sure you remind your doctor of that. It’s also worthwhile to get copies of your prior imaging studies for your doctor and your chart, so you don’t need to repeat it again.

Overall, never hesitate to have a test performed if the benefits outweigh the risks of radiation. That will require a good conversation with your doctor. So if you aren’t sure whether your doctor has truly considered all these points before ordering that imaging study, make sure to ask.

See also: 6 Tips to Get Your Doctor to Listen to You

Here’s a website by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists that patients can use to keep a log of their imaging studies in order to estimate your personal risk.

What are your thoughts on ionizing radiation exposure? Have you ever had an imaging study you wished you hadn’t? Share it with us on the House Call Doctor’s Facebook and Twitter pages!

Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

CT Scanner image from Shutterstock

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Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

About the Author

Sanaz Majd, MD

Dr. Sanaz Majd is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who graduated from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Her special interests are women's health and patient education.