As you lie on a bed and move through a ring-shaped CT scan machine, your body is bombarded by a series of X-ray beams with dangerously high levels of radiation. Studies show that this radiation overload can increase your risk of cancer.
A computer tomography (CT) scan is a medical imaging technology that uses computer software and a series of X-ray views with different angles to produce detailed images of the inside of your body. It provides much more information than plain X-rays. It is particularly useful for a more in-depth look at those who’ve suffered internal injuries from car accidents and trauma.
It is projected that in 2010, one in every 10 Americans will have a CT scan. Overall, more than 70 million CT scans – at least four million on children – are performed in the U.S. annually. This is in stark contrast to the mere three million in 1980.
An occasional CT scan is useful diagnostically, but Dr. Joseph Mercola warns that you should avoid this procedure unless your life depends on it.
CT Scan Radiation: Equals 500 or More Chest X-Rays
CT scans provide a clearer picture of your insides because they use more radiation than X-rays. An abdominal CT scan exposes your body to radiation emitted by about 500 or more chest X-rays, while a whole-body CT scan is estimated to emit the equivalent of 900 chest X-rays.
According to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2009, CT scan radiation alone will cause nearly 30,000 unnecessary cancer cases. This will lead to about 14,500 deaths, Dr. Mercola points out.
A 2007 New England Journal of Medicine study even gives a much higher estimate of up to 3 million cancer cases due to the overuse of CT scans.
Dr. Mercola believes that many CT scans are unnecessary but are still administered because:
- Doctors don’t want to be sued for malpractice if they miss something.
- Some patients ask their doctors for unnecessary scans because they are convinced of the benefits of advanced diagnostic tools. The tools they hear about from advertisements don’t even disclose the risks of radiation.
- Some doctors want to screen worried and at-risk patients – like former smokers for lung cancer – “just to be safe.”
- Doctors seek to earn back their investment on the technology.
- Commercially advertised whole-body CT scans want to “find everything wrong with you” and target patients who can afford the procedure.
Cancer is just one of the dangers of diagnostic tools that rely on ionizing radiation.
Other Reasons Why You Should Avoid CT Scans, X-Rays, and Mammogram Radiation
Radiation emitted by diagnostic imaging equipment causes chromosomal mutations and is far more harmful to your DNA than free radicals. Though not lethal, the damage done to the genetic material of every internal organ or cell lying within the path of an X-ray beam is cumulative and irreparable, Dr. Mercola explains.
Radiation is also associated with cardiovascular disease. The damages sustained by the DNA in your arteries cause the cells lining these blood vessels to multiply abnormally. This decreases the size of the arterial lumen and effectively “narrows” your arteries. The radiation-induced tissue inside your arteries is similar to scar tissue: there’s decreased blood vessel elasticity and an increased risk of arterial blockage.
Another drawback is the risk of misdiagnosis. Full body scans are notoriously unreliable and worry the patient needlessly, creating the desire for follow-up tests and/or even more unnecessary medical interventions.
The risk of misdiagnosis is particularly rampant in mammograms – as high as 89 percent today! This is why many women are unnecessarily and harmfully treated by being given a mastectomy, more radiation, or chemotherapy.
The Search for Safe Diagnostic Tools
Dr. Mercola recommends thermography or thermal imaging for breast screening. This state-of-the-art imaging system is entirely safe, accurate, and non-invasive. There is no radiation and no pressure or compression of the breasts. It can detect signs of breast cancer up to 10 years before either a mammogram or a physical exam.
Explore all other options before undergoing a CT scan, mammogram, or other diagnostic techniques that use radiation. Consuming a potent antioxidant like astaxanthin found in Antarctic krill oil may help reduce radiation-induced damage.