Medical Radiation

Understanding Medical Radiation

Did you know common medical tests such as X-rays and CT scans use radiation? The radiation creates images that help your doctor or dentist diagnose or treat a problem, such as a cavity, broken bone or brain injury. These tests are safe when done properly. But if you have many over your lifetime, National Institutes of Health studies show your risk of getting cancer from radiation exposure increases.

It’s important that, when one of these tests is prescribed, you and your doctor talk about the need for the test and if you may have other choices. Make sure you understand what your doctor says about why the test is needed, because Studies show many CT scans are prescribed when not needed.

X-rays and CT scans use ionizing radiation – a kind of energy that can pass through body tissues and show up on a camera to create an image. There’s always a risk of damage to your body from being exposed to any amount of ionizing radiation. Effects of radiation build up over time and may increase your chances of getting cancer in your lifetime.

The increased cancer risk from being exposed to medical radiation is small and the benefits of your testing may outweigh that risk. Still, it’s important you understand why you’re having the test and if you have other choices.

To reduce your lifetime risk of getting cancer from radiation exposure, you should have the right test, at the right time, with the right dose. If you've had other tests involving medical radiation, it’s important you share that information with your doctor.