CT scans in children – is there an alternate test that can be ordered instead? What do you need to know?

A new study about childhood radiation exposure was presented this week in the British Journal of Medicine.

This excellent study reminds us that CT scans are still exceptional diagnostic tools, but that they are not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. The increase I childhood cancers from exposure to CT scans is 25%.  That does not mean that one in four children who had had a CT scan will get cancer.  Here is an explanation from the study:But because the incidence of cancer in early life is very low this increased risk translated into only an extra six cancers over 10 years for every 10 000 young people who underwent computed tomography. Had they not had any scans, 39 cases of cancer would have been expected in this group
  2. Technology and reasons for using CT scans have evolved considerably since the study’s data cutoff of 2005.  Today’s scanners all have radiation dose reduction software and scan a very precise area of the body, both of which result in less radiation than previous types of CT scans
  3. The decision to give a CT scan to a child is one doctors make after very careful consideration.  A North American-wide campaign to “Image Gently” has resulted in a big shift in how and when CT scans are performed.  Here is one of the conclusions of the study:

Future CT scans should be limited to situations where there is a definite clinical indication, with every scan optimised to provide a diagnostic CT image at the lowest possible radiation dose.

It is important to note that the effects of radiation exposure in adults is less than that in children. An adult’s overall risk of getting cancer is affected by many things including age, lifestyle habits such as smoking and diet, and genetics. Based on current incidence rates, approximately 4 out of 10 Canadians will develop some type of cancer during their lifetime, regardless of exposure to medical radiation.  Read more here.

CT scans still remain an invaluable diagnostic tool.  For example, in trauma cases, these scans can be performed quickly and can establish what the injuries are – these can be life-and-death cases where time and information is of the essence.

Early detection of lung cancer is another area where CT shines.  See our next blog article where research has shown that CT scans detect twice as many lung cancers as chest xrays.

If you would like more information about CT, MRI or Ultrasound scans, or would like to know which type of scan might be best for you, please call us at 604-709-8522, email us at info@canadadiagnostic.com or visit our website.

  Filed under: Categories: CT Scans and MRI Scans. Tags: CT Scans, MRI Scans Vancouver, and Radiation Exposure.
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