Did early CT scans increase my son’s cancer risk?

News, Opinion — By on January 4, 2010 at 10:21 am

Asked by Raheela, Colorado — My son, who is now a healthy 3-year-old, had six or seven head CT scans along with two MRIs and some X-rays for a head injury he had when he was just 11 months old. I am very concerned about this new study regarding CT scans causing risk to cancer in future. Did we put our son at risk because of those CT scans?

Head injuries can be difficult to evaluate in young children because they do not always show the symptoms of internal bleeding (such as headaches, seizures and vision problems) that may be more obvious in older children and adults. The risk of having a brain injury go undiagnosed and untreated must therefore be balanced with any radiation risks from tests such as CT scans.

To help answer your question, I consulted with Dr. Rick Woodcock, a neuroradiologist at Atlanta Radiology Consultants and director of MRI at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. He shared the following information:
• CT exams use X-rays in a special way and help provide important information about your health. They may be essential in helping your doctor make an accurate diagnosis. In contrast, MRI exams do not use X-rays and so they don’t expose you to radiation risks. This type of study may also be needed for an accurate diagnosis. However, MRIs are used for different reasons and often provide different information from a CT.
• Radiation exposure happens every day. We receive radiation exposure from many nonmedical sources, including the Earth, space and our own bodies. The amount of radiation we receive from medical tests is variable, and for a CT scan, it is equal to about the amount we receive from nonmedical sources of radiation in a year.
–Living Well Expert/Dr. Jennifer Shu, Pediatrician, Children’s Medical Group

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