5 CT Scans and Risk of Developing Cancer - 1273744

Sun, 04/24/2016 - 05:16

I have had a total of 5 CT scans and only upon my last scan did I learn about the super high level of radiation. 2007 abdomen, 2009 Chest, 2009 Abdomen, 2009 Pelvis, and 2016 of the entire spine. Totaled up the is some serious exposure not counting the numerous X-rays too. All the data is showing an elevated chance of cancer but the data seems so skewed so I don't know to worry or not. Super worried right now and there are only a few of the same reports rehashed on the net. One Dr. says there is no connection and others say it's a 1 in 800 chance. Does anyone know if the spacing in between the scans matters? Reports say employees in certain fields are allowed exposure to 50 mSv per year! Do you have the same cell damage with one large dose as you do with the same dose over a period of time? Haven't slept in days so any help is much appreciated.

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Why are you having CT scans? Are they low-dose? Here's a link I refer to when someone questions having them for any type of follow-up. "It is commonly thought that the extra risk of any one person developing a fatal cancer from a typical CT procedure is about 1 in 2,000 (2). In contrast, the lifetime risk of dying from cancer in the U.S. population is about 1 in 5 (3)."
Take care, Judy

Posts: 2753

Hi smoses,

Although there is some risk of cancer from CT scans, that risk is often overstated, as you can see from this post by Dr. Weiss: http://cancergrace.org/forums/index.php?topic=3100.msg18436#msg18436

CT scans are an important diagnostic tool which, if properly used, can save or extend lives, and the risk is small enough that they should not be avoided for that reason alone.

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Posts: 2

Thank you Judy and Jim for your responses and providing data.
In 2007 I was having abdominal pain and in 2009 it returned. The general practitioner I think didn't know any better and neither did I. So the first scan in 2007 was just a single one and the second in 2009 was of the chest, pelvis and abdomen. I just had a full blood screening a few weeks ago and all was good. I'm considering back surgery and the surgeon I went to did a full "scoliosis" CT Scan that was a 1083.5 mGy cm. That's a ton! Based on a X-ray risk.com that is almost 20 mSv. Am I calculating that correctly if it included the entire spine? (They don't have that option so I had to piece it together. I'm just freaking out because to the total amount I must have received from all 5 of these unnecessary tests which must be close to 45 mSv The doctor told me that the annual exposure rate for nuclear plant workers are 20 mSv so I have nothing to worry about. Well I have a young family to worry about and didn't offer me much comfort. My physical therapist who has a lot of pro athletes as clients said he doesn't know why this Dr. would order a CT for my situation. As far as data all I can find the results of the same studies in a loop of endless Google articles and it's freaking me out! One study says there is no credible link to medical low dose radiation and cancer because the data is flawed from WWII Japanese atomic bomb survivors, one that studied children who had brain CT's in the UK had additional leukemia, one says there is an 800% increase in leukemia and others flat our say anyone who gets a CT is doomed. Is there a benefit of having these last ones 7 years apart? Anything I can do to repair the damage? Are my chances of having leukemia elevated because they concentrated on the bone and marrow? Thank you in advance for your help.

Posts: 2753


Although it's not in the context of a CT to the bones, in the highest-risk group for development of leukemia or brain cancer after head ct scans, children and young adults, the increase in cancer risk is very small, according to research by the NIH:

"Despite the elevation in cancer risk found in the study, the two malignancies are relatively rare and the actual number of additional cases caused by radiation exposure from CT scans is small. The most recent (2009) U.S. annual cancer incidence rates for children from birth through age 21 for leukemia and brain cancers are 4.3 per 100,000 and 2.9 per 100,000, respectively. The investigators estimate that for every 10,000 head CT scans performed on children 10 years of age or younger, one case of leukemia and one brain tumor would occur in the decade following the first CT beyond what would have been expected had no CT scans been performed." - http://www.momsteam.com/ct-scan/nih-study-links-childhood-ct-scans-incr…

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I am not an expert, but I had a subdural hematoma in 2014 and have had 8 CT Scans to the head since then and spent dozens of hours researching this.

In that time, I have gone through a lot of "OMG I AM GOING TO DIE FROM BRAIN CANCER" fear and maybe I will in 5 or 10 years moments, but here are a few things to consider:

-A lot of doctors and researchers believe that the scale we use to measure radiation dose is wrong, and we can take low levels of radiation without any issues. In fact, the current method of measuring radiation was based on the survival of japanese after being nuked in WW2 and some of the scientists who have reviewed that early research, do not always believe in it.

-Apparently the CT Scanning machines of the last few years use much less radiation than they did, and have much better software, hence the doses most people get are usually far less than what they report when doing this research. Like everything else, equipment is more sensitive, hence less power is needed to get the same or in most cases, better results. Doctors have been aware of "radiation danger" for years, it was much worse in the 70's and 80's due to the threat of nuclear annihilation obviously. It stands to reason that manufacturers of this equipment would be working towards cutting down the power.

For example, my 8 CT Scans might be the equivalent of 2 or 3 scans 10 years ago or 1 CT scan 20 or 30 years ago.

I got the above information from somebody who tunes the machines, he said most of the stuff out there is out of date and wrong.

My radiologist (who is also a close personal family friend so I hope wouldn't lie)tells me I shouldn't worry, the machines are nothing like they used to be, and that today she would do a full body scan on her baby, whereas 7 years ago, she wouldn't have.

Either way, what is done is done. Don't worry about it. Live healthy. Your risks are virtually zero.

Posts: 3

My experience with CT scan is horrific,. I had a chest/sbdomen/pelvis CT scan with and without contrast two months ago. Turned out everything was OK. Next day I had sunburn like patches on my face, neck, chest, back and shoulders. Very painful. Over two months I started losing weight, got drenching sweats, blood cloths on legs and low fever. My body feels on fire, my tongue is dry and swollen and I have blurry vision. I feel like my body was cooked. I cannot sleep at night because of the drenching sweats that wake me every two hours. Several moles on my skin changed rapidly and turned severely atypical. I was a healty person, just had some abdominal pain. I had no clue that this type of scan is equvalent to about 500 chest x-rays. I trusted the doctor who ordered it. It most likely gavr me cancer. I am very thin and sensitive. I had tons of dental x-rays and a couple chest x-rays over the years and this was too much.

Please avoid full body CT scan. Ask questions about alternatives, educate yourself. In two months my life has changed forever. I realize this is a csncet forum but healthy peple may find this post and learn from it.

Posts: 3

Ionizing radiation is cummulative. It does not matter if it is spaced over the years. And is not reversible. There is nothing you can do to dimminish its deadly effect. AVOID as much as possible especially large doses like full body. I could have used ultrasound to begin with. I was so stupid to accept full body CT scan. No one had cancer in my family..
According to the technocian, my thin body was bombarded with 20mGy of radiation, comparable to some atomic bomb sites lower dose. But I suspect it was more than that as it burned my body pretty bad.
It is not true that it is safe. Statistics mean nothing to me if am most sensitive to radiation. No amount of radiation is safe. Cancer radiation therapy often involves just a small focused area. The full body CT scan covered all vital organs, tissue and skin. Most dangerous. It caused acute leukemia in my case. I have all the symptoms. I am so weak that I can no longer leave the house. My skin is burning. I am devastated. And there is nothing I can do to reverse it.There is so much scientific info on the web . Please keep reading. Doctors must explain the risks to patients. Mine never did. All I can talk about is my own experience. I live everyday like in a nightmare. Whi did I do it? It was nothing wrong with me, just some abdominal pain. Did anybody develop acute leukemia and melanoma short time after CT scan?
Please share your experience!!!

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Hi codra1,

Welcome to GRACE. I am sorry to hear of these terrible symptoms that you are having, and I hope that you are working with a medical team to discover their cause and find a resolution that will make you comfortable again.

As far as a scan two months ago causing symptomatic cancer, I cannot stress how extremely unlikely this would be, as that is not how cancer develops. Exposure to radiation or other environmental toxins can lead to cancer by altering the DNA of cells, causing them to grow and multiply and an uncontrolled rate. But this process takes years before even the smallest tumors appear, and very small tumors usually don't cause any symptoms, and certainly not the magnitude of symptoms you're experiencing. Even the high-dose radiation administered to treat cancer tumors (which is many times more intense than any CT) can take months to kill those cancer cells.

In addition, typical CT scans expose the body to much less radiation than the figure of "500 chest x-rays" which you quote, although they do subject the body to significantly more radiation than many x-rays. You can find some comparisons between CT and x-ray radiation exposure here.

As I say, I hope that you are conferring with your medical team to discover the cause of your symptoms. One possibility for such rapid-onset symptoms is an adverse reaction to the contrast dye, as described here. Although you feel that you have "all the symptoms" of the conditions you mention, it is critical that you obtain an actual diagnosis from your doctors so that a treatment plan can be formulated.

I hope you are feeling better soon.

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Posts: 3

Hi JimC,

Thank you for your kind reply. I agree that I need to be diagnosed by a doctor. I had no idea about how poisonous the contrast dye can be either. Anyway my point is that doctors need to present all the risks to patients. In my case a simple abdominal pain clearly did not justify a full body CT scan. He ended up performing an endoscopy which was fine. Horrible.

Posts: 2

Hi I know this post is old. I had about 7 scans some were days apart others a week or two. The reports talk about my abdominal area and spine. Seems like these are chest and abdomen scans. I am also concerned about the cancer risk as well.

JanineT GRACE …
Posts: 570
GRACE Community Outreach Team

There are a lot of good links and a lot of good info in the previous posts. Before getting scans talk to your doctor about why it's important to have the scan and ask about risks vs benefits. There's always a balance to be made and haveing these discussions is the type of thing you have to do to make sure the balance tips in the direction that fits your personal needs.
I hope you do well,

I joined GRACE as a caregiver for my husband who had a Pancoast tumor, NSCLC stage III in 2009. He had curative chemo/rads then it was believed he had a recurrence in the spine/oligometastasis that was radiated. He's 10 years out from treatment.