Too Much of a Good Thing?

We are incredibly fortunate in this country to have access to the best medical care possible. (Don’t worry, this isn’t about to be a treatise on healthcare reform.) I have benefitted tremendously from a team of the best thyroid cancer doctors in the world, who practice in a world-class facility, using state-of-the-art machinery.

Those machines include some seriously high-tech CT scanners. I’ve been run through them several times over the past few years, and I’m due for another one next Tuesday. The scans help my medical team determine whether my thyroid cancer has recurred somewhere other than in my neck, and that’s information I want them to have.

But headlines from the last few weeks have me wondering if the scans might be too much of a good thing. CT scans have revolutionized medicine, and I suspect I’m not alone among those of you reading this who’ve had (at least) one. It turns out, though, that they’re less regulated than one might expect. The Food and Drug Administration regulates the machines themselves, but not how much radiation they emit during a scan–and in many cases, it’s more than is needed, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

That radiation? It can lead to cancer.

It seems crazy that part of my treatment for one cancer could put me in danger of getting another one. I’m not about to forgo tests that will help my team effectively treat me, but I will be asking questions. How much is too much? Maybe they can’t answer that yet, but I want to know that the question is on at least one of those high-tech screens they have.


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