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Radiology Study: CT Scans May Increase Cancer Risk

Posted by floriza in Radiology

A radiology study conducted by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and published in the journal, Radiation Research, in December 2011 indicates that multiple CT scans may increase the risk of cancer for patients who are particularly susceptible to cancer. The researchers studied mice, which had been especially bred with a gene that made them more susceptible to lung cancer. The mice that were exposed to CT radiation had 43 percent more tumors than the mice that were not exposed to the radiation. Female mice were also found to be more likely to develop tumors than the males.

The mice without the gene that is known to increase susceptibility to lung cancer did not have more tumors after CT radiation. Therefore, the radiation apparently does not pose a risk for those without a genetic vulnerability to the disease.

The researchers suggest that it may be advisable for patients who are known to have the cancer susceptibility gene to undergo magnetic resonance scanning (MRI) rather than CT scans, if at all possible, since the radiation could cause additional tumor formation.

The radiologists also noted that prior studies have found that CT scans may be the cause of as many as 29,000 cases of cancer in the United States every year.

The study was funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute, the Wake Forest University Cancer Center, the Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Department of Radiation Oncology at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

What is a CT Scan?

A CT scan, which is short for computerized tomography, is a combination of x-rays that are cross-sections of tissues or bones within the body. When inputted into a computer, a CT allows a doctor to see a three-dimensional image of the portion of the body that was photographed.

CT scans are frequently used to diagnose injuries after an accident, especially when time is of the essence. They are also sometimes used during surgery in order to guide the surgeon to the proper location. For cancer, CT scans can be helpful to determine if cancer is present and whether it has improved or spread. The scans can also show where a tumor is located.

What is an MRI?

Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves rather than radiation to photograph the inside of the body. Because MRI may photograph the body differently than an x-ray or CT scan, it may not always be a viable alternative to CT. In some cases, however, MRI is preferable.

A material that injects a contrasting color into the body is sometimes necessary so that the tissues can be more easily seen in the MRI image.

Radiologists in New Jersey, such as in Summit, Trenton, Newark, and other areas can provide advice as to whether a CT scan, MRI, or other type of imaging is best.

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