Tests that involve radiation have become very popular. One reason is that these tests are expensive, which generates high reimbursement for doctors and hospitals.
But radiation causes cancer. So although these tests are sometimes appropriate, I am increasingly concerned about the frequency with which they are performed and the high amounts of radiation patients are being exposed to.
The radiation you get from an X-ray, CT scan, or nuclear imaging is called “ionizing radiation,” which means that the body is exposed to high-energy wavelengths or particles that penetrate tissue to reveal internal organs and structures.
Ionizing radiation can damage DNA, resulting in mutations that could contribute to cancer years down the road.
The nuclear heart scan is another example. For a nuclear heart scan, a radioactive substance called a tracer is injected into the bloodstream; it then travels to the heart and releases energy.
Special cameras outside of your body detect the energy and use it to create pictures of the heart.
There are times when a nuclear heart scan should be done. But in many cases, a noninvasive test that doesn’t use radiation can be substituted.
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