CT scans can increase cancer risk in the young
Research reported in the Lancet yesterday said that CT scans in the young can lead to an increased risk of cancer in later years. 180,000 patients who had received CT scans when young were followed up between 1985 and 2002. Although CT scans were said to result in a big increase in the risk of later developing cancer, possibly by up to threefold, the researchers were quite clear that these cancers were still very rare. They said that they estimated that head scans in those under 10 years old might result in one extra case of leukaemia in every 10,000 head scans. It was also made quite clear that the guidelines for the use of CT scans has always been clear and that these should only be done when there is clear clinical need and justification.Trefine Maynard, a clinical negligence specialist at Ashtons Legal, adds: “There has been an increasing recognition of the radiation risks of CT scans which are far higher than the more traditional x-rays. However, CT scans can also give a far more detailed picture to clinicians and can improve the likelihood of correct diagnosis and early and effective treatment in many cases. The radiation dose given by a scan has been reducing over the years but these findings underline the importance both of continuing to seek ways of minimising the dose and also of always being sure that the decision to give a CT scan has been properly evaluated. Although it is crucial to ensure that patients are given a full explanation of the risks of any treatment they are offered, they must also be given a clear explanation of the potential benefits of treatment or investigations. Patients are more fully informed on medical matters than they have ever been before and this should be welcomed by medical practitioners so that patients can be empowered and encouraged to participate in, and take some responsibility for, decisions regarding their treatment. It is the failure to be open, honest and clear with patients that so often leads to complaints and distress.”
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