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articles about too many CT scans

lisa42's picture
Posts: 3661
Joined: Jul 2008

I just got my "Good Housekeeping" magazine in the mail and it had an article that was upsetting to read. I know we're all aware that a CT scan (and hence a PET scan) has a lot of radiation, but it was upsetting to read this article. It called it the Test That Causes Cancer and how to not get it when your doctor recommends it. It talked about the overuse of CT scans now. I know it really is a problem, but it went on in detail talking about the huge increase NCI has predicted in cancer cases for 10-15 years from now that will be specifically caused by CT scans. It did not talk at all in the article about people who already have cancer and are getting them to check on cancer growth, restaging, etc. I literally can't even begin to remember how many CT and PET scans I've had. I guess I could get MRI's instead, but I read that MRI's aren't good for checking progress in the lungs, and they definitely don't show the cancerous/metabolic activity. My oncologist uses PET/CT scans. I've had scans where the CT portion was unchanged (stable), but the PET portion(metabolic uptake) had changes in it. I feel this was significant information to know- whether the cancerous activity was increased, decreased, or stable- this is how we know if whatever my chemo of the month is is working or not.

I feel like I'm damned if I do, and damned if I don't. So, if I survive my current cancer, I'll end up facing new types of cancer years down the road from all the scans I'm getting? This has caused a great amount of anxiety in me the past few days since reading this article, but I'd probably have anxiety NOT having the scans too, because we wouldn't have as precise of a picture of how the chemo is working or not (if I had an MRI instead- is there any other test that can be done??)

Don't know if there's an answer to this concern or not.


Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

Agreed, Lisa

I feel that most of the medical profession just considers us as experiments or test cases anyway - and since we have or have had cancer, they are more or less writing us off and continue to scan us, because they figure what's the difference?

And of course - it's big money, let's not forget that.

Damned if you do - damned if you don't...again, I agree.

I've always likened our fight as having to "trade tomorrow for today." I mean we have to live now and fight now and not worry about tomorrow's outcome.

In the event that we do make it, then we may all be presented with new problems. I guess we'll cross those bridges when we get there, LOL:)

I'm reminded of one of my nurses during my liver surgery. She told me, "We're living in a world of cancer now. The world is a different place than it was 30-years ago."

Hopefully one day there will be another machine that can scan us without emitting such a strong dose of radiation - something out of Star Trek or something like that.

Good post here - and we are all rowing in the same boat here.

What's that old saying, "What does not kill you will make you stronger?"

It does give one food for thought - thanks for your thoughts.


ldot123's picture
Posts: 276
Joined: Apr 2008

Hi Lisa,

I am a just over 3 year survivor of stage 3 colon cancer. I share your concerns. 22 years ago, I had Hodgkins and had numerous CTs and also radiation treatment. When I was diagnosed with CC, my Hodgkins doc said there "may" have been a contributing factor from the radiation I received years ago. Now radiation treatment is whole lot more intense than the CT scans but radiation is radiation. I do believe all you can do is follow the protocol that your doctor is offering. In my mind, not having the CT as a diagnostic tool would be risky as well. I am sure that there are continuing studies on this matter. What do others think?


Posts: 1956
Joined: Oct 2009

Radiation Emitting Products, "Compared to most other diagnostic X-ray procedures, CT scans result in relatively high radiation exposure. The risks associated with such exposure are greatly outweighed by the benefits if diagnostic and therapeutic CT. However, for whole-body CT screening of asymptomatic people (meaning,people w/o symptoms), the benefits are questionable."

At bottom of article: "The radiation from a CT scan may be associated with a very small increase in the possibility of developing cancer later in a person's life."

So, I guess we choose our poison:seems like main way to determine effectiveness of treatment is via CT yet that very CT may result in additional cancer down the line.(Assuming one can trust FDA)......steve

PS-like others here, taking first posteverything CT this Thursday morn, regardless of the additional risk.....

coolvdub's picture
Posts: 410
Joined: Aug 2009

I guess sooner or later we all die. But I don't need any help from CT scans. I can't even remember how many of them I have had at this point, but it's a lot of them. I suppose it's something I need to discuss with my medical team. But I'm sure I will continue to have them for the time being. Until they come up with a better or new tool to do what a CT scan can do, what else are we to do?


John23's picture
Posts: 2140
Joined: Jan 2007

I don't mean to offend you, and I didn't want to single you out,
but your comment was/is so representative of the general opinion
on this board, that I just can't contain myself....

"I do believe all you can do is follow the protocol that your doctor is offering."

No, no, no and NO.

You are entitled to second, third, and more, opinions..... and
you should get those "opinions" from physicians that are not
in the same group, association, or area.

You are also entitled to (and should explore), all the other options
to western medicine; all the other alternatives that others have used
quite successfully.

You absolutely -do not- have to allow yourself to be subjected to
whatever your "favorite physician' desires to hand you.

For years and years, cancer victims have subjected themselves to
massive doses of chemotherapy drugs that have caused them
irreparable problems, and death. Years later, it was found that
those mega-doses were unwarranted, and lesser, smaller doses
worked as well if not better..... and it lessened the inherent risk of
"second cancers" caused by the chemicals used.

Physicians can only prescribe what the FDA has approved, and
the FDA approves products based on the reports the industry
provides them. Taking medications without questioning the
side effects; without questioning the physician regarding other
options to that medication, is foolish at best. You are leaving your
life in the hands of another human being who may not know
any more about that chemical than you do.

You are responsible for your own life and health. You -do not- have
to hand over your best interests to someone else, out of fear of
making a mistake. Physicians, even the best of the physicians, make
mistakes; People die of overdoses and wrong diagnosis.

I'm really sorry if my dialog offends you, or anyone else, but a
reality check is in order here.

We shouldn't become lemmings as a result of our fear of dying;
it is a poor excuse to die at the hands of others.

No-one wants to die; not at any age, and not from a cause like
cancer. But we are all destined to die eventually; it is part of life.

We can and should do our best to stay alive as best we can and
for as long as we can, and we should do so to the best of our ability.

Our "ability" should not end with someone else's opinion.

Aside from the many, many western medicine devices to fight cancer,
there are also other alternatives to western medicine that work as well.

Please don't fall prey to the industry, or those that demand that
you listen to a "majority". You owe it to yourself to fight for your
own life using your own intellect and instinct.

Better health to you.


Kathryn_in_MN's picture
Posts: 1258
Joined: Sep 2009

I've got to agree with you on this one. In fact, I just "fired" my primary clinic. They've been unresponsive during important times, and made too many mistakes. I do NOT have to listen to what they tell me - this is MY body and MY life, not theirs.

When I told my oncologist at the beginning of everything that I was considering going for a second opinion, and that I wanted to incorporate complimentary and alternative medicine, he encouraged me to do whatever I thought was best for me. I ended up not going for a second opinion but would have been supported if I did. I know another patient of his - and when he had an unusual situation come up, our oncologist consulted with another oncologist and asked him to see my friend and give a second opinion. Sure, this isn't the most unbiased way to get a second opinion, but our doctor didn't want to move forward without making sure he wasn't leaving options out. And he would have supported getting an opinion from anywhere else too.

Another case in point - my stay in the hospital this last weekend. I was admitted through ER on Friday night. I talked to the admitting physician after being moved to a room. He told me his plans. The next morning the nurse came in with another bag of Vancomycin (which i expected) and my "other" meds. One was the GI cocktail (like swish & swallow) which I expected. The other was a Lovenox shot. Huh? I just got off Coumadin. I had my port taken out so I could stop taking poisons. No one had mentioned Lovenox. Then while that was going on, the lab came up for more cultures. I explained that they had just taken 4 bottles of blood for cultures in the ER less than 12 hours earlier. The lab tech said that normally cultures are repeated 24 hours later. So I refused the cultures and the Lovenox and said until I spoke with a doctor and got the reasoning for both, and got the update on my plan, no one was doing anything! After talking with the doctor - NO Lovenox since I was not bedridden, and promised to keep moving around and getting my walks in. I did agree to the cultures once she explained why they wanted another set. If I had not spoken up and gone against what was ordered for me, I'd be back on blood thinners and I definitely do not want that.

I know you choose different methods than the majority after your initial surgery. And while it is not the method I choose, you did what was best for you. We ALL have to do that - be advocates for ourselves and make our own decisions. Medical professionals can guide us, but we have the right to make the final decisions.

HollyID's picture
Posts: 951
Joined: Dec 2009

And I mean refusing the blood tests and the lovenox. Sometimes, you have to be your own health care advocate and stand up and refuse to lay back and take what they dish out. Sometimes, I appreciate when my patients ask questions about why we're doing this and that. If they refuse, that's ok, but I do want them to be informed about their care and plan. It's their health and their care.

Love and Hugs,


Kathryn_in_MN's picture
Posts: 1258
Joined: Sep 2009

Having just had my 5th CT (plus dental X-rays, multiple chest X-rays, mammogram, and 3 PET scans) in the last 9 months this concerns me too. But without the CT I wouldn't have had my PE diagnosed, and wouldn't know that the activity in my pancreas was not cancer, etc. Risk vs benefit. That can be applied to most everything in life. In the case of cancer patients I think the benefit outweighs the risk.

KFen725's picture
Posts: 108
Joined: Jul 2009


I also have had a lot of anxiety with all of the news of how dangerous CT scans can be on your future cancer risk. During my last pregnancy, my husband, parents & I were hit head-on in a highway car crash and all of us (except for me - I just went straight to a c-section) were subject to multiple CT scans. My husband's arm was badly broken and he had about 5 or 6 CT's in the ER and then a few followups while his arm was healing, plus a year's worth of monthly arm x-rays.

He was only 25 at the time, and it really upsets me to think that someone else's careless driving caused my husband and parents to be unnecessarily exposed to such radiation. I guess in certain situations, all we can do is pray for God's protection from the effects of such things. In my husband's situation (and yours), there's not really many other options... We always just prayed before each CT or x-ray that God would protect him from any ill effects.


Posts: 217
Joined: Apr 2010

and just had about all the same thoughts you had. I have been following articles on subject for awhile and since I am ned's since 5/09, onc said on last visit, maybe no more scans for a year. I thinked I mentally freaked at the though of that. Still don't know if I could stand not knowing what is happening for a year. Some of these reoccurances don't have symptoms till it is too late........

I absolutely believe just about everything John believes in, but too chicken to take my chances, but at times I really believe medicines in general just do damage somewhere else in our body......so John is my hero, but then I think what if, so many people are surviving and they were not before. So my consolation is thank goodness I made 67 and I have to die of something, now I just have to make some choices....good or bad. If I were younger, my thoughts would probably be different. I don't mean to sound negative, but sometimes being positive all the time is tiring. I am interested in what other will do regarding scans. I have been trying to research ultra sounds, MRI,, etc, so I can have an intelligent talk with onc. next time......Pat

PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

I've heard about that issue too. I also heard that the more modern scanners give off less harmful radiation. In a perfect world, no radiation would be the goal. Since that world does not exist, we have to do the best with with what we have and to educate ourselves the best we can. Radiation is also present in natural settings like from the sun, from rocks in the ground and other "natural" sources. It's also present all around via microwaves from cell phones and who the hell knows what else. We are unfortunately in a situation where it can also provide some diagnostic tools to help us in our fight with cancer.

Of course we do not have to use it as a diagnostic tool, no on is pointing a gun to anyone's head. As always, we should find ourselves the best possible medical team that we can and then sort through the information they provide us and use all of that to help us make our decision.

On the holistic side, I am not up to date at all at what diagnostic tests they have to determine if cancer is present or if tools like that even exist and if they do, are they accurate. I don't think there is anything that is fool-proof. We are our own best advocates for our health and one has to feel comfortable with the path they have taken. If someone is not at all comfortable with western medicine then obviously it's not for them. If someone is comfortable with western medicine then by all means, follow that route if it's been successful for you so far. The same goes for eastern medicine. If one is comfortable with it then please continue to use it. There is no one size fits all with this or really with anything in life. We are all so unique that one can not prescribe a protocol that is one size fits (or cures) us all.

I understand how you feel Lisa and I've had similar thoughts too. We all have to weigh the risks against the benefits. Personally, I'd rather have a more precise image of what is going on inside of me.

Mankind, on the whole, is killing itself by what many call progress. There are trade-offs in life. We can't have things both ways.

I wish you well Lisa

PS: One other note I forgot to mention, the newer machines emit far less radiation than the older ones do. So when you can, use a facility with newer equipment.

lisa42's picture
Posts: 3661
Joined: Jul 2008

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for all the input. I guess I wasn't really looking for a solution- just mainly venting some frustration, esp. the fact that the article did not address people who are getting scans because they already have cancer- the article just kept stressing to stay away from CT scans and to "tell your doctor no to getting these dangerous scans"-that's how they worded it. I think it was kind of an irresponsible article to not mention the plus side and very helpful side of these scans.
I will continue getting the scans, as I do want to know very specifically what is going on inside of me in monitoring my chemo success or not. If I ever need a scan of just my liver in the future, I will request an MRI, as I read MRI is the best for that, but I'll probably stick w/ the PET/Ct or CT for my lungs and rest of my body.

Have a good rest of the week, everyone!


John23's picture
Posts: 2140
Joined: Jan 2007

Down here in Florida, we have a medical group that has come under fire
for prescribing, and charging for, CT Scans, MRI scans, and radiation
treatments, when they weren't needed.

In part:

"The complaint also alleges that defendants administered image-guided radiation therapy IGRT without the required level of supervision, and used a hand-held device system to create an illusion of proper supervision; billed for immobilization devices (to assist in irradiating the proper part of the body) when such devices were not used; excessively billed for complex simulations, and billed for other services not actually performed. "


And more like this:
"The MIMA case bears little resemblance to a recent slew of Medicare fraud cases from South Florida, in which taxpayers were billed for treatments and services that were never given at all or, if given, were outdated and pointless. The accused in those cases are serving time or facing criminal penalties. "


"(Reuters) - Radiation from CT scans done in 2007 will cause 29,000 cancers and kill nearly 15,000 Americans"


This technology costs the medical industry millions to buy, install
and use. It doesn't amaze me, and shouldn't amaze anyone, that
it's use would be encouraged if for nothing else, than to get it to pay
for itself within a shorter time.

It's not "sinister", it's "business".

The bottom line, is to be your own advocate and never accept
an "opinion"; never accept a health procedure, without question.

Cancer is a fear-driven industry, and it's very, very easy to
fall prey to those that do not hold -your- best interests as sacred
as they hold theirs.

Don't allow your fear to guide you down false paths.

Think healthy!


tootsie1's picture
Posts: 5065
Joined: Feb 2008


My family doctor warned me early on about too many ct scans. Yes, we do have to have them sometimes, but he said we should try to miminize and have an x-ray instead or MRI. We all have to do what we have to do and pray for the best outcome.


coolvdub's picture
Posts: 410
Joined: Aug 2009

Here is a link to a article on Yahoo that seems to agree with what started this whole thread. I tried using BB code for the link, but I guess they don't allow it. If anybody knows how to make this link active so you can just click on let me know how. For now I guess it's cut and paste in your browser.



HollyID's picture
Posts: 951
Joined: Dec 2009

This article agrees with what everybody has brought up.


Reasons why physicians order so many radiological tests: Fear of lawsuits. Interesting article in itself.

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