In 2011, there were more than 85 million CT scans performed in American hospitals. In 2010, one in every 10 Americans underwent the procedure. Developed in the 1970’s, the CT scan was hailed at the time as one of the “most important medical advances of the past century” because it allows physicians to see anomalies that would otherwise not be visible except through surgery.
But recent evidence is pointing to this highly-intensified and widely-used x-ray device as a possible cause of cancer as well.
What Science Says about CT Scans and Cancer
CT stands for “computed tomography.” CT scans use hundreds of x-rays to see inside the body and create 3D images. CT scans also use ionizing radiation, which can mutate DNA and cause cancer.
According to researchers at Harvard Medical School and others, there is a 1 in 2,000 chance of a person getting cancer from one abdominal scan. That cancer risk goes up every time a person gets one done, however.
“The problem is that the explosion in unnecessary CT scans has been going on every year,” said consumer advocate and founder of Life Extension Foundation William Faloon back in 2010. “If we carry this back just ten years, this means that 150,000 Americans are facing horrific deaths from CT scan-induced cancers.”
The US Food and Drug Administration reported in 2001 that approximately 30 to 50 percent of all imaging scans, including CT scans, may be completely unnecessary. That was almost 8 years ago. How many cancer deaths caused by unnecessary CT scan are occurring now?
A 2012 study conducted by the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson found that the 85 million CT scans performed in 2012 created approximately 46,750 cancers over the lifetimes of the patients who received them. In this mostly economic study, the researchers stated that this equates to an annual cost of approximately $244 million to $263 million.
Furthermore, a 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that CT scan overuse may result in 3 million excess cancer cases over the next three decades!
CT Scans and Breast Cancer
According to Harvard University, “The body regions where CT-related cancer is most likely to occur are the chest, abdomen, and pelvis, where faster-growing cells are more vulnerable to radiation.”
There is no doubt that excessive CT scans can lead to breast cancer, although naysayers tout the fact that CT scans are rarely used for breast exams; therefore, there is a very slight risk of getting breast cancer from them.
A 2012 study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America showed that this trend may be changing, however. The researchers analyzed imaging records of 250,000 women in the Chicago area. In the year 2000, there were roughly 100 CT scans per thousand women. In 2010, however, there were 192 CT scans, an increase of 6.8 percent annually. The study concluded that 46% of the CT scans analyzed exposed breast tissue to radiation.
The researchers then compared the statistical data gathered from their analysis with a proposed estimated radiation exposure for each woman. They then compared these numbers with the National Cancer Institute’s “basic risks” for developing breast cancer.
The resulting information caused the researchers to conclude that CT scans do indeed raise the risk for breast cancer. For young women receiving cardiac or chest CT scans, this raised risk could be as much as 20%.
CT Scan Alternatives? Yes, There Are!
Whether you are concerned about breast cancer or another condition, know that there are alternatives to toxic and potentially dangerous x-rays, including CT scans. Opting for an ultrasound instead of a CT scan is one option. Ultrasound imaging do not use radiation. Instead, it uses high-frequency sound waves to peek inside the body.
Thermography is another option and can be an excellent source of very early detection for not only breast abnormalities, but other sources of inflammation in the body as a whole.
In a mammary gland-focused or whole-body scan, thermography or DITI (Digital Infrared Thermographic Imaging) uses sensitive heat detecting software to determine areas of possible imbalance. In a 2008 study conducted by New York Presbyterian Hospital, thermography was shown to have a 97% success rate in detecting abnormalities.
What’s more, thermography is completely safe and side-effect free!