Medical imaging devices like X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs are clearly important for the diagnosis of disease. But are we relying on them too much, opting for these tests in cases where their benefit is not perfectly clear? Medical experts believe this may be the case, as a study shows that the frequency at which these tests are ordered has risen about 10 percent every year since 2004.
The study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) followed close to 2 million patients over 15 years. At the beginning of the study, the researchers recorded 50 CT scans for every 1,000 patients. By the end, that number increased to 200 CT scans for every 1,000 patients.
Not only did they find that medical imaging tests that use radiation are being used with more frequency, they also studied the amounts of radiation used and found that there’s a wide range used from one test to the next. For example, they found that people who had CT scans of their abdomens experienced radiation levels that varied by 25 percent.
While medical imaging is often necessary, some experts believe that doctors are ordering them without believing that it will help in treating the patient, but rather to just put patients at ease. This is concerning, as radiation exposure can increase your chance of developing cancer. Furthermore, unnecessary testing also increases the chance of a false positive, causing a patient to undergo further testing and treatment that is not only expensive and time consuming, but potentially harmful.
It’s important for patients to empower themselves to ask the right questions before having medical images taken. Ask your doctor how the test is going to help you. If you feel your doctor’s response doesn’t sufficiently explain the need for the test, you have the right to refuse. If you do undergo one of these tests, ask the doctor or the technician performing the test about the radiation dose they use and how they are minimizing your exposure.
Have you ever refused a medical imaging test? Tell us why below.