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Cancer Health Center

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New Campaign to Curb Radiation From CT Scans

Experts Hope to Reduce Use of Excessive Imaging Tests

Increase in Imaging continued...

According to the medical literature, 50 to 100 mSv of radiation is associated with "some increase in cancer incidence," according to Pat Basu, MD, of Stanford University. He presented the new study on cancer risks in the elderly, but was not on the panel.

By comparison, 10 continental round-trip airplane flights expose a passenger to 1 mSv of radiation and an astronaut is exposed to about 200 mSv per year, Basu says. Health care workers are limited to 20 mSv of radiation per year, he says.

Campaign to Reduce Radiation

Hendee says that the Image Wisely campaign is built on the highly successful Image Gently initiative aimed at reducing radiation exposure to children.

"If we can do it for kids, why not do it for everyone?" Hendee says.

As part of the initiative, the panel hopes all institutions that offer radiation tests put up signs with its icon, the owl, and a pledge to use radiation wisely, he says. "It's a constant reminder."

Practices that the panel hopes to eliminate include the use of tests to protect against malpractice suits, Hendee says. Also, sometimes doctors with a financial stake in a radiation center refer patients to that center.

Another problem: With technology changing so quickly, doctors may not always know which exam is most appropriate, he says. As part of the campaign, a computerized "decision system" has been developed to help guide doctors.

If you’re not sure why your doctor is ordering a test, ask, Hendee advises.

Also, bring a record of what imaging tests you have received when you visit a new facility, suggests James A. Brink, MD, chairman of diagnostic radiology at the Yale University School of Medicine.

The Image Wisely initiative is supported by RSNA, the American College of Radiology, the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, and the American Society of Radiologic Technologists.

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