Illnesses and injuries are synonymous with childhood. As a parent you have probably had at least one trip to the emergency room. But in the midst of looking for your insurance card, filling out forms, and anxiously waiting; did you ever stop to wonder if any of those medical tests were doing more harm than good? There is no question that medical technology is saving lives. The advancements that have been made in just the past two decades alone are astounding. But maybe we’ve become too dependent on this technology to the extent that our overuse is threatening the very thing we are trying to preserve…our health.
According to a study published in the British Medical Journal (May 2013 ed.), CT (computed tomography) scans were found to be linked to the incidents of cancer in young people under the age of 19. While this study didn’t establish a cause-and-effect relationship; it did suggest that a child’s risk of developing cancer increased by 24% when exposed to radiation from a CT scan. Perhaps the most significant findings from this study of nearly 11 million youths was that the risk of developing cancer seemed to increase by 16% with each additional CT scan that a child underwent. Also, children under the age of 5 appeared to be at the greatest risk.
CT scans are routinely performed to diagnose infections, identify masses and tumors, and to study blood vessels. The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that the most common areas of the body that scans are performed on include the brain, chest, spine and abdomen. Although the NIH acknowledges that the radiation exposure rate is higher in a CT scan than an x-ray, they maintain that the risk from one scan is small. However, they acknowledge that it is the repeated exposures over time that increases the risk of cancer for both adults and children.
What Empowered Parents Must Remember:
The purpose of this guide isn’t to scare you but to educate you so that as a parent, you can make informed decisions about your child’s treatment and care. When your child is experiencing a condition or injury that requires medical assessment, your ability to make decisions can often be clouded by emotions and an overload of medical information. To help you during these challenging times, it would be wise to keep accurate and up-to-date medical records for your child that include the dates and results of any previous x-rays or CT scans. If your child has had more than one x-ray or scan in the past year, advocate for their health and safety by requesting alternative assessment options from your treating physician. Any good doctor will understand and help you to properly weigh the risk.