Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.
Tags: medical | test | radiation | dangers | screening

Can Medical Test Radiation Be Spread to Others?

Thursday, 13 September 2012 09:25 AM

Question: I’ve read lots of stories lately about how excess radiation from medical screenings is harmful. My question is, can those exposed spread the radiation to others?

Dr. Hibberd's answer:
The quick answer is no. Ionizing radiation (X-rays) cannot be spread from person to person.
Ionizing radiation from X-ray procedures do not travel in our bloodstream (unless a radioactively "labelled" substance is given).
Direct radiation exposure can affect an unborn child. X-ray imaging procedures(plain films, CAT scans, and all fluoroscopic and radio-isotope procedures) are usually avoided if you are pregnant, unless specifically directed by a doctor who knows you are or might be pregnant.
Remember that each of us are exposed to about 300 mrem of radiation from background sources every year, which is about the same as 30 chest X-rays each year. Radiation dose is cumulative also. Ionizing radiation exposure also occurs when we fly in any airplane. The higher the altitude, the greater the exposure.
Diagnostic imaging has increased the average person's radiation dosage seven times since 1980, according to studies.
Too much radiation can increases the risk of cancer significantly.
We find that radiation dose for X-ray procedures vary widely by facility. But here are estimates for the amount of radiation exposure for common tests:
a) One CAT scan of your abdomen and pelvis (1,000 mrem) is approximately equivalent to
100 chest X-rays (10 mrem each).
b) Four dental bitewing X-rays (each 0.5 mrem) and a panorex film (1 mrem) are approximately equivalent to
3 hand/ foot X-rays (each 0.5 mrem).
c) 20 hand or foot X-rays (0.5 mrem) have the same exposure as one chest X-ray (10 mrem).
d) One view of your lower back (150 mrem) is the same as 15 chest X-rays.
e) One neck X-ray (cervical spine 20 mrem each film)) is twice the dose of one chest X-ray, or 40 hand or foot films, AND in a very sensitive (neck) area to radiation.
We feel that regular screening such as the one advised for breast cancer causes only a small amount of radiation exposure to women relative to their usual annual background expoure. Women have regular mammograms (36 mrem for 2 views) starting as early as from the age of 40, but absent risk factors, we continue to customize intervals of mammography by patient risk, with most to start now by age 50.
With that knowledge however, One two view mammogram is the same as 3.6 chest xrays or more than 7 hand/foot X-rays.
Screening may be useful, but more is often LESS when we have options.

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Radiation from medical screenings cannot be spread to others.
Thursday, 13 September 2012 09:25 AM
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