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CT Scans and Breast Cancer: The Risk and Alternatives

These days, it can be common for your doctor to suggest a CT scan to detect a number of different ailments or issues within your body. Perhaps instead of taking a closer look at the symptoms and deciding upon a cause that may or may not be exact, they believe using a CT scan to aid in their diagnosis will be worth the risks that the scan may present. And using a CT scan can be highly beneficial in cancer diagnoses and other internal body illnesses. But your doctor may not always explain the exact risks in exposing yourself to CT scan radiation. 

The Scientific Connection

Computed tomography scans, better known as CT scans, create 3-D images of the inside of the body by projecting hundreds of x-rays through a certain portion of your body by a large machine. X-rays are a form of ionizing radiation, which can actually mutate your DNA and has been found to lead to an increase in the potential development of cancer. For areas of faster-growing cells, like the chest, abdomen, and pelvis the risk can be even greater.

For a woman undergoing a CT of the chest area, her chances of developing cancer can increase by 20%. Studies have shown there is a much greater risk of developing cancer from repeated CT scans, and when a single scan has a 1 in 2,000 chance of causing cancer in certain areas, such as in the abdominal region in this particular case, receiving multiple CT scans, even drastically spaced out over time, can create a substantial rise in possibility. 

Is It Really Necessary?

With such a great risk associated with the use of CT scans, it may be surprising to note that many times, around 30-50% of the time, CT scans may not be necessary to ensure a proper diagnosis. This means that there may have been other much safer routes to go with than exposing your body to such high radiation levels. It is always important to discuss the risks of any procedure with your doctor or read all the fine print before going forward with a medical referral to have a CT scan performed. 

Other Options

With such a high number of CT scans ordered each year, the CT scan may seem like the only option a patient may have, especially if the doctor does not share alternative choices. However, rather than facing the possibility of an increased risk of cancer with a CT scan, there are two other options to consider.

An ultrasound is a commonly used technique in the medical field, and for certain areas of the body, it can provide a greater picture of the inside of the body without using harmful radiation. An ultrasound uses high-frequency sound wave to bounce throughout the body, creating a very clear image of any concerns inside. The precision and accuracy of using an ultrasound have improved significantly over time with technological advancements.

And the less well-known option is thermography, or Digital Infrared Thermographic Imaging (DITI). Thermography uses heat detecting software to locate areas within the body that are imbalanced, abnormal, or inflamed. This can be an especially highly successful tool in detecting breast abnormalities and has no harmful side effects.

In closing, it is always important to do your proper research from reputable sources before going through with any medical procedure. An educated doctor should also be able to discuss any potential worrisome side effects and risks associated with those procedures. In the end, it must be decided if the benefit will outweigh the risk, or if there are safer alternatives available.

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One Response Comment

  • Alex | BigBlueWaves Wellness  October 1, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    Again — thanks a lot for speaking up, Sasha!

    It’s so hard to find honest, natural health promoters nowadays and that’s why I deeply respect your work.

    As a formally-educated pharmacist, I had to ‘dig’ on my own and learn about the potentially harmful effects of certain diagnostic procedures such as CT scan.

    Mammography also has its share of cancer-promoting risks, yet it’s been recommended even to women with no risk factors and structural changes in their breasts.

    Thanks for mentioning ultrasound, though. It does seem to be a much safer procedure. Regardless of that, would you agree that pregnant women are being exposed too much?

    Best wishes and keep up the great work!

    Reply

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