Excessive exposure to CT scans increases cancer prevalence

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Unjustified use of CT (Computerized Tomography) scans which are considered as a potential cause of cancer has CT_scanincreased in Australia. This has alarmed the Medicare watchdog and then calls were carried out by senior radiologists for doctors to stop the excessive ordering of CT scans for patients.

More than 400 new recorded cases of cancer per year in Australia are related to diagnostic radiology. Yet, the number of CT scans is increasing by 12 % per year, putting in mind that CT scans produce significantly more radiation than the ordinary X-rays. The Excessive use of CT scans made DR. Tony Webber, from the Medicare watchdog, to make the unusual step of carrying out experts calls for doctors  urging them not to use CTs as a first-choice diagnostic tool for several conditions  such as lower back pain.

''I have been alarmed at the number of these scans ordered without clinical justification,'' Dr Webber, the director of the Professional Services Review, says in his Report to the Professions issued today. This warning comes after a recent study; the study mentioned that more than 50% of senior medical students in Perth underestimated the effects of radiation doses produced from the commonly used radiological procedures. In the United States, exposure to medical radiation is recognized for being increased by more than six-fold in the past 30 years. Yet, research mentioned that to 40% of CT scans can be avoided with no effect on patient care. In his report, Dr. Webber reported several cases of doctors referring patients for CT scans without clinical need to do so, including one doctor who ''regularly ordered CT scans on any patient presenting with back pain''. The report has an appeal from leading radiologist, Richard Mendelson, who mentioned that most authorities accepted the fact that there was no dose of radiation ensuring the carrying out of work without risk.

Yet, Professor Mendelson, head of radiology at Royal Perth Hospital, added that in the past 20 years there had been a marked increase in the exposure of the patients to medical radiation. This took place mainly because of the increased use of CT scans. The Prof. said ''Although the risk of a CT scan is relatively small, a CT of the abdomen and pelvis may expose the patient to a dose of up to about 20 milliSieverts and thus an increased risk of induction of a fatal cancer of one in 1000,''. The hazards and risks of excessive CT scans in young or middle-aged patients suffering from lower back pain or Crohn's disease for example were significantly high.  Especially, in cases when recurrent imaging was required, Professor Mendelson said. He mentioned that there are reasons for the abusive use of CT scans; these reasons include some lack of knowledge of some doctors about the risks imaging, lack of sufficient time to carry out with clinical assessment, and patient's requests for a scan and fear of having ''missed'' diagnosis in case diagnosis was carried out with no CT scans.

Associate Professor and a director of research in diagnostic imaging at Melbourne's Southern Health service Stacy Goergen , mentioned that the improve in education of medical students about radiology hazards was ''absolutely essential''  Professor Goergen added that  on the other hand, there was a strong argument about many other deaths being delayed or stopped using of diagnostic imaging. Yet, ''inappropriate use of imaging is commonplace and provides little or no benefit to the patient but exposes him or her to risk'' she said in the Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Oncology. The Prof. added '''Paradoxically, as imaging has become more complex, the amount of time spent teaching it to non-radiologists has diminished in many tertiary institutions,"


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