The Facts About Radiation
Radiation is the transfer of energy through space. The energy may be in the form of invisible particles or waves. Radiation is all around us and has been throughout our entire history, so our bodies are able to deal with the low levels we’re exposed to every day. Excess radiation, however, can damage tissues and lead to serious problems.
In recent years, there is more awareness among the the medical community and general public about radiation exposure. Some types of radiological testing involve radiation. These primarily include X-Ray, CT, Mammography, and Nuclear medicine.
Radiologists and Radiological Technologists are trained to always consider the radiation exposure that is involved in testing. Radiation oncologists are trained to use radiation in treatment of cancers. Alternative considerations for radiation exposure are made for children and pregnant women in particular.
Radiation can be dangerous in uncontrolled settings with high levels of radiation exposure, but it also save lives. Radiological Testing uses radiation in controlled dosage and environments with trained physicians and technicians that can help diagnose and even treat disease. When you are faced with a medical reason that requires a radiological test that uses radiation, don’t allow fear to deter you. Learn about the risks and benefits, and know what questions to ask. If medical radiation is really needed, ask questions to better understand your risks.
In x-ray procedures, x rays pass through the body to form pictures on a computer or television monitor, which are viewed by a radiologist. If you have an x ray, it will be performed with a standard x-ray machine or with a more sophisticated x-ray machine called a CT machine.
During interventional procedures, fluoroscopy is used by cardiologists, gastroenterologists, pain specialists, and radiologists to perform procedures inside the body
If you have a nuclear medicine procedure, a special camera will be used to detect energy given off by the radioactive material in your body and form a picture of your organs and their level of function on a computer monitor. A nuclear medicine physician views these pictures. The radioactive material typically disappears from your body within a few hours or days.
As a precaution, if during your pregnancy, you are considering having an abdominal/pelvic x ray or a radionuclide medical test, consult your doctor. The doctor, in consultation with the medical physicist or health physicist, will help you determine if any increased risk is significant. If there is a considerable risk, your doctor can determine if the procedures can be delayed until after birth or whether another medical procedure, such as an ultrasound or MRI, could be used instead. If you are pregnant and abdominal x rays or radionuclide medical procedures are scheduled without consultation with your doctor, inform the person performing the exam that you are pregnant. As a precaution, you should inform a person performing any type of x-ray or radiation procedure that you are pregnant.
How Much Radiation Will I Be Exposed to During Testing?
Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer. Exposure it takes to image to determine a broken leg is much less than that required for a CT scan of your abdomen to check for cancers or underlying diseases. Sometimes, repeat tests are needed to see if you are responding to your treatment and to verify diagnosis.
Talk with your healthcare provider and your radiologist about the benefits of the your radiological exam to help you feel at ease during your procedure. Ask what you and your physician expect to learn from your examination. Will decisions about your future plan of healthcare depend on the imaging study? If the results will not impact your future course of medical care or measure your progress from treatment, the testing is not necessary. Also, be sure to ask if the X-Ray, CT scan, or nuclear imaging is the best study, or would other non-radiation producing studies like ultrasound, magnetic resonance, or medical laboratory tests be sufficient?
Most importantly, make sure that the Radiologist and Radiological Technicians in the examination are properly trained and credentialed. Your physician should prescribe only what is medically necessary to help make healthcare decisions, measure treatment progress, and deliver therapeutic doses.