How To Get Rid Of Radiation After CT Scan – Medical imaging tests like CT scans and x-rays provide crucial information to diagnose and treat illness. But they also expose your body to radiation, which can damage cells and raise your lifetime risk of cancer. This article explains how much radiation CT scans use, whether you should worry about the cancer risk, and most importantly – how to protect your body from radiation exposure.
How CT Scans Work and Why They Require Radiation
A CT or “CAT” scan (computed tomography) is a radiology test that uses multiple x-rays and a computer to create cross-sectional images of the inside of your body. The scan can help diagnose causes of pain, bleeding, and infection, or identify tumors and other issues.
CT scanners rotate around the body, taking multiple x-ray images from different angles. A computer then processes these images into 3D pictures of “slices” of the body part being scanned. This provides more detail than a regular x-ray image.
To create clear images, CT scans require higher amounts of radiation than regular x-rays. The multiple images taken from all angles expose your body to between 100 to 500 times more radiation!
This is because x-rays and CT scans work by emitting ionizing radiation – which can damage DNA and cause cell death. This radiation passes through the body, being absorbed in different amounts by different tissues. Denser tissues like bone absorb more radiation, while softer tissues like fat absorb less.
By measuring absorption levels, scanners create a detailed black and white image showing contrast between various internal structures. But this useful information comes with radiation exposure risks.
How Much Radiation Do CT Scans Emit?
The amount of radiation from a CT scan depends on the part of the body being imaged and settings used:
|CT Scan Type||Radiation Dose (mSv)|
To compare, a chest x-ray gives about 0.1 mSv – meaning a chest CT scan has about 70 times more radiation! Americans get an average 3 mSv per year from natural background radiation sources like radon and cosmic rays.
So with just one scan, you can get years’ worth of normal environmental radiation exposure!
For context, here are radiation doses of other imaging tests:
|Imaging Test||Typical Radiation Dose|
|PET scan||25 mSv|
|Cardiac CT||7 mSv|
And for comparison, radiation cancer treatments give high doses of 20,000 to 40,000 mSv!
Should You Worry About Cancer Risk from CT Scan Radiation?
With CT scans using x-rays and emitting ionizing radiation, it’s natural to worry about cancer risk. Radiation is a known carcinogen and causes DNA mutations that can lead to cancer.
Studies estimate the extra lifetime risk of cancer death from a 10 mSv CT scan is about 1 in 2000. So if a chest CT scan gives 7 mSv, the risk would be slightly lower.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that up to 2% of current cancer cases could be attributed to medical imaging radiation. With over 70 million CT scans performed annually in the US, this is a significant concern.
However, the risks are complex and depend on age, gender, and dose:
- Children have higher risk as they have longer lives ahead and more dividing cells vulnerable to radiation damage.
- Younger adults have higher risk than seniors.
- Risk is cumulative over a lifetime of exposure.
- DNA repair mechanisms work better at lower radiation doses.
- Cancer often develops years after radiation exposure.
The general consensus is there is a small increased cancer risk from CT scans. But the individual risk is low, especially compared to the substantial diagnostic benefits. Doctors only advise CT scans when truly needed to avoid unnecessary radiation.
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Risk of Developing Cancer from Radiation Exposure
|Amount of Radiation Exposure (mSv)||Increased Risk of Developing Cancer|
Tips to Limit Radiation Exposure from CT Scans
While CT scans carry low individual risks, it’s smart to limit radiation exposure whenever possible. Here are practical tips to protect yourself:
- Ask if the scan is truly necessary – Don’t be afraid to have an open discussion with your doctor about whether the CT is truly needed or another test may work.
- Ask about lowest dose possible – Work with your radiologist to determine if a lower radiation dose could still get readable results. Newer scanners better optimize radiation levels.
- Shield vulnerable organs – During scans of a specific body part, other organs can sometimes be shielded to avoid exposure.
- Keep track of exposure – Keep a record of medical imaging tests you get to monitor cumulative lifetime radiation dose.
- Avoid too frequent repeating – Don’t have the same CT scan repeated at short intervals unless absolutely required. The radiation adds up.
- Wait when possible – If a scan can wait until the end of pregnancy or after breastfeeding, it’s ideal to wait and avoid exposing vulnerable children or breast tissue.
- Hydrate and take antioxidants – Stay hydrated and load up on antioxidant foods around the time of your scan. This may help your cells better deal with radiation and repair damage.
- Consider alternatives when possible – Discuss options like ultrasound or MRI which don’t emit radiation. Even though CT is higher resolution, other tests may suffice.
Tips for Protecting Yourself from Radiation Exposure from CT Scans
|Ask your doctor if a CT scan is really necessary.||CT scans should only be used when the benefits outweigh the risks.|
|If a CT scan is necessary, ask your doctor if there is a lower-dose alternative.||Some CT scans can be performed with lower doses of radiation.|
|If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of having a CT scan.||Radiation exposure during pregnancy can increase the risk of birth defects.|
|Limit the number of CT scans you have.||The more CT scans you have, the greater your risk of developing cancer.|
Key Takeaways on CT Scan Radiation Exposure
- CT scans provide important and often lifesaving medical information, but expose the body to ionizing radiation that can damage cells and contribute to cancer risk later in life.
- While individual risks are fairly low, especially compared to the benefits, it’s wise to minimize radiation exposure from medical imaging whenever possible through careful discussion with doctors.
- Children and younger adults have higher risks from radiation exposure and should be especially cautious with CT scan usage and frequency.
- Newer scanners help optimize radiation doses. But the most impactful way to reduce risk is simply to avoid unnecessary CT scans and choose alternatives like ultrasound or MRI when feasible.
Being an educated and proactive patient is the best way to balance the benefits and risks of CT scans for your unique health situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a CT scan?
A: A CT scan, or computed tomography scan, is an imaging test that uses X-rays to create detailed cross-sectional images of the body.
Q: Why would I need a CT scan?
A: CT scans are commonly used to diagnose and monitor various medical conditions. They help doctors visualize the organs, bones, and tissues within the body to identify any abnormalities or diseases.
Q: Is there any radiation involved in a CT scan?
A: Yes, CT scans involve the use of X-rays, which emit a form of ionizing radiation. However, the levels of radiation used in modern CT scanners are considered safe and relatively low.
Q: Should I be worried about radiation exposure during a CT scan?
A: While it is natural to have concerns about radiation exposure, the risk of any significant harm from a standard CT scan is extremely low. The benefits of the scan in terms of accurate diagnosis outweigh the minimal radiation risk.
Q: How can I protect myself against radiation during a CT scan?
A: To minimize radiation exposure during a CT scan, the technician will ensure that you are positioned correctly and will use the lowest dose of radiation necessary to obtain accurate images. You can also inform the technician if you are pregnant or may be pregnant to take additional precautions.
Q: Can radiation from CT scans cause cancer?
A: The risk of developing cancer from a single CT scan is very low. However, repeated exposure to high doses of radiation from multiple CT scans over time may slightly increase the long-term risk of cancer.
Q: What can I do to detox from radiation after a CT scan?
A: The body naturally eliminates the small amount of radiation received during a CT scan. There is no specific detox procedure required. However, it is important to drink plenty of fluids and maintain a healthy lifestyle to support the body’s natural detoxification processes.
Q: Can radiation from a CT scan damage my DNA?
A: High doses of radiation have the potential to damage DNA. However, the small amounts of radiation used in a CT scan are not known to cause DNA damage or genetic mutations.
Q: What are the potential side effects of radiation exposure from imaging tests?
A: The potential side effects of radiation exposure from imaging tests like CT scans are extremely rare. Most people experience no immediate side effects. However, in very rare cases, some individuals may experience mild reactions such as skin redness or nausea. Long-term side effects are highly unlikely.
Q: How does the level of radiation in a CT scan compare to other sources of radiation exposure?
A: The level of radiation used in a CT scan is higher than that of a regular X-ray. However, it is still significantly lower than other sources of background radiation we are exposed to in our daily lives, such as cosmic radiation or living in high-altitude areas.