General Question

Aster's avatar

Can radiation from xrays cause cancer and when are they well worth the risks?

Asked by Aster (18806points) September 3rd, 2010

Mammograms, abdominal xrays,CAT scans, dental every six months—risky or necessary?

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27 Answers

MissA's avatar

@Aster ‘They’ say that it’s not enough to worry about or weigh against your particular problem…but, something tells me that’s not exactly true. ~

There are so many ways that we get radiation…even if we lived in a Faraday cage, we still have to go out into the real world.

Aster's avatar

I recently read that one abdominal cat scan is like getting 400 chest xrays or was it 4,000? I think it was 400.
Isadore Rosenfeld MD said on tv to not get a whole body CAT scan because he was certain the cancer risks were too high. I thought coming from a doctor that was quite an admission.

Ben_Dover's avatar

Yes x-rays can cause cancer.
They are worth the risk when you use them to cure a broken bone or actually spot the cancer in your lungs well before it has time to finish you.

Aster's avatar

@Ben_Dover thanksl so what is the cure or prognosis for lung cancer?

Ben_Dover's avatar

They cut out the lobe of lung wherein resides the offending chunk.

I know someone who hurt their shoulder in a bike accident. this person happened to be 76 years old.

He went to the doctor who had him x-rayed. The x-ray technician noticed a shadow near his lung area. The technician suggested a lung x-ray. the doctor agreed. The x-ray showed a malignant growth,

The early discovery of the cancer gave the biker a fighting chance. Hw went in for the operation where they cut out a lobe of his lung. (The third lobe, as luck would have it, on the lung with three lobes [we have five lobes of lungs all together]).

They could find no further sign of Metastization and so he didn’t need radiation nor chemo therapy.

and so my dad is till alive four years after finding the lung cancer (which is generally a death sentence).

Aster's avatar

that is wonderful, Ben.

Ben_Dover's avatar

We were all pleased with the outcome, especially dad.

Lightlyseared's avatar

There is strong statisitical evidence linking the increase in leukemia with the increased use of CT scans, but as @Ben_Dover says the benefits of improved imaging often out weigh the risks.

lilikoi's avatar

Radiation is cumulative so yes enough exposure could lead to cancer. It’s worth it when the benefit outweighs the risk.

gasman's avatar

I’ve heard that one airline flight exposes you to roughly the radiation of one chest x-ray—just to put things in perspective. Doctors nonetheless worry about cumulative doses of radiation in patients who need repeat studies. Medical personnel who work around x-rays routinely wear lead aprons & other shielding. It’s all about making a very low-probability event (radiation-induced cancer) even lower.

I’d be very wary of chriopractors (& other quacks) who routinely perform unnecessary whole-body x-rays. Ditto for head-to-toe “screening” CTs not ordered by a doctor. Otherwise don’t worry about it.

JLeslie's avatar

Yes, they can cause cancer. Some x-rays deliver more radiation than others. CAT are multiple x-rays and so obviously you are exposed to more radiation. We are exposed to radiation just being out in the sunlight and from other things that surround us in our environments, but x-rays are directed to one area of the body, and should be limited unless necessary. When they are necessary they are well worth doing, because over all they are safe,and deliver much lower doses of radiation compared the x-rays of 30 years ago. Drdredd knows more about this, I will send the question to her. Maybe she will answer.

JLeslie's avatar

I just reread your Q, dental x-rays ever 6 months? I thought the recommendation was once a year. I have done it less often for the last 20 years, usually once every two years, because I don’t have trouble with my teeth, but I will be going to once a year after the age of 45. Same with mammograms, even though the current recommendation is from the age of 40. I will have two before the age of 45.

Mom2BDec2010's avatar

They can cause cancer but you have to be around them all the time. Thats why the people who do them and work around them wear protective clothing to keep them from getting exposed to the rays.

MissA's avatar

In my opinion, regular mammograms are a joke. I finally began getting them just before fifty. Everything’s always alright. I went in a little early because I discovered an unusual lump. They gave me a wave-by…everything’s fine.

A few months later I just felt that there WAS something there. And, to make a long story short, there is. At first, they thought a lumpectomy would do the job. My lymph nodes were enlarged, but no cancer. They removed the lump and seven nodes. Now, they’re telling me I should have radiation therapy and chemo. Apparently, there are cancer cells at the progesterone receptors.

The next deal is a full body scan. I’m not crazy about the radiation…but, what are my other choices.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@JLeslie I’ve had 40 dental x-rays this year (don’t ask)

Aster's avatar

@MissA I would call around and see if all the oncologists give full body scans for your scenario. I doubt it. One of those is equal to standing 2 kilometers from an atom bomb radiation wise . Do a search on it. Its your body, not their.s.

JLeslie's avatar

@MissA I’m so sorry to hear your story. You know, i personally don’t know one person diagnosed with breast fencer under 50 (I don’t know how old you are) who has had cancer found by a routine mammogram. I am sure those people must exist, I just don’t know them. Everyone I know who had cancer under 50 found a lump or had some pain, although pain is a rare symptom, most people don’t have pain. Olivia Newton John knew there was something wrong and so they did x-rays and found nothing, did an ultrasound found nothing, but she persisted, and in the end she had breast cancer. I had a close girlfriend in her early 40’s who had discomfort in her breast, mammogram was normal, but she also persisted, and it wound up being cancer. I am sure part of the reason women under 50 don’t have cancer detected during routine mammograms is because most women who get it are older, but still, that it is not detected when it is there, I find that frustrating. Do you know if your x-rays were digital? Digital is supposed to be more accurate.

@Aster where do you get that analogy from?

JLeslie's avatar

The table about a quarter of the way down on this link is interesting.

MissA's avatar

Yes, @JLeslie , they were digital. I am 54. My mother was diagnosed at 54 and died at 56. I didn’t know her…a whole other story. Thanks for your post.

JLeslie's avatar

@MissA did you get tested for the gene?

hobbitsubculture's avatar

What I’ve been wondering lately is if there is any residual radiation from these machines when they are not in use. I just got a job doing security at a hospital, and I have to go into some of those rooms.

MissA's avatar

@JLeslie I’m afraid that I don’t know about a gene test, except to determine whether it is likely that you’ll get it.

gasman's avatar

@hobbitsubculture No, the x-rays scattered about the room do not linger any more than light does when a lamp is switched off. X-rays do not make the walls radioactive & there is no x-ray afterglow.

JLeslie's avatar

@MissA About the gene test. They have isolated a couple of genes that can predict with fairly high certainty if a woman is going to get breast cancer. Being negative does not mean you won’t get it, in fact something like 90% of breast cancer cases are negative for that gene they estimate. The thing is people who are positive for those particular genes are about 90% likely to get breast cancer. So women who have a lot of breast cancer in their family use the test to decide whether to have a bilateral mastectomy either before ever getting cancer or when finally diagnosed opt for mastectomy over lumpectomy typically because it is so likely to reoccur.

Aster's avatar

@MissA Terrible what you.re going through! My best friend only had one mammogram. She was 47. A year later she felt a lump. Tests showed she had stage 4 bc that had spread to her lung. Her doctor knew she was terminal at that stage but protocol says he had to cut the breast off anyway; she just went along with whatever he wanted for two years.
I recall she looked great but was constantly coughing a light cough, not a hard or loud cough. Anyway, her xrays were a false negative. She had been under tremendous stress for several years but it seems if she had been having mammograms each year early detection might have saved her.

JLeslie's avatar

@MissA I wanted to add that I would have the scan, as much as I avoid xrays. It seems you are leaning towards doing it. I would want to know if the cancer had spread to other organs, since it seems your cancer was not encapsulated (I think that is the right word?). Also, I would not personally do the cgemo and radiation if the felt the easily got it all, but in your situation i think i would do it. Do you have the option to get a mastectomy instead? Just my opinion, I am not a doctor, and of course I don’t know all that you have been through, and I only know the basics about breast cancer. I can’t say enough how much I wish you a full and speedy recovery. The mental stress dealing with medical decisions, is almost as bad as dealing with the illness itself. At least it is for me.

hobbitsubculture's avatar

@gasman Thanks for the reassurance. Hypochondria can easily lead to paranoia, especially when dealing with a subject I don’t know a lot about. And of course it feels doubly stupid compared to actual health issues, like others in this thread have written about.

Obviously, I don’t know much about this topic, but my partner’s brother-in-law (a medical intern) warned us one day to never get a PT scan.

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