Radiation Safety

X-Rays, CT Scans and Nuclear Medicine

We place the highest importance on your well-being. Your care team will minimize your exposure to the radiation of X-ray, CT and nuclear imaging procedures as much as possible. The benefits of these technologies, which help with diagnoses and treatments, far outweigh the risk.

What are X-rays and how are they used?
X-rays are a form of high energy, or radiation, that can penetrate the body. They are used to produce pictures of the inside of your body. Doctors use these pictures to make a diagnosis or provide a treatment.

How is the radiation of X-rays measured?
Radiation is measured in units, sometimes called effective doses.
  • Millisievert (mSv)
  • Millirem (mrem)
1 mSv equals 100 mrem.

How much radiation will I be exposed to during an X-ray test?
Radiation exposure from an X-ray test is similar to the background radiation you are exposed to in your everyday environment. Background radiation comes from the sun, water, ground and air. In the United States, people are exposed to about 3 mSv each year – or less than 0.01 mSv (1 mrem) a day.

What is the risk?

Exposure to radiation can cause a small increase in your risk of developing cancer later on. Cancer that is caused by radiation typically does not occur until 20 or more years after the exposure. For this reason, children who are exposed to radiation may be at a higher risk of getting cancer later in life.

Without additional exposure to radiation, about 42 percent of people in the U.S. get cancer, and 20 percent die from cancer.

How much will my risk increase if I get an X-ray test or treatment?
It is not possible to say exactly how much an X-ray will increase your risk of cancer. We can estimate your risk based on the type of procedure you have.

Can an X-ray cause immediate harm?
Most X-ray procedures do not cause immediate harm. Some treatments using X-rays can injure the skin, however. Before you receive a treatment, your care providers will discuss your risk with you and have you sign a consent form that provides information about potential injury. Please be sure to read it and ask any questions you may have. Remember that your doctor has scheduled the X-ray procedure because it will benefit your health.

What should I discuss with my doctor before I receive an X-ray test or treatment?
It’s important to talk to your doctor about any tests or treatments you may receive. Ask questions and provide helpful information.
  • Ask why you need this test or treatment.
  • Ask how the procedure can improve your health.
  • Find out if there are alternatives to the procedure that do not use radiation but are equally good.
  • Tell your doctor about any X-ray procedure you have recently had.
  • Tell your doctor or X-ray technologist if you are, or might be, pregnant.
  • Do not insist on having an X-ray procedure if your doctor says you do not need it.
  • Do not refuse to have an X-ray procedure if there is a need for it and the benefits outweigh the risk.
Some risks are greater than others
If you receive a chest X-ray (0.1 mSv dose of radiation), your risk of dying from cancer is about 1 in a million. The same risk results from smoking 1.4 cigarettes or eating 40 tablespoons of peanut butter.

If you do not receive an X-ray procedure that you need, your risks can include a missed diagnosis, treatment that begins too late to improve your medical condition or a shorter life expectancy.

What are CT scans?
CT stands for computed tomography. In a CT scan, X-ray tubes move around your body to take multiple images from different angles. A computer assembles the images to produce cross section views of your body. These images allow your doctor to see your internal organs and identify any abnormalities.

How much radiation does a CT scan expose me to?
It depends on the type of CT scan you receive.

Why should I get a CT scan?
CT scans are a valuable tool that helps ensure you get the best care you can receive. These images can help your doctor determine if you need surgery or another treatment and if you have a condition like cancer, heart disease, stroke or internal injuries.

What are nuclear medicine scans?
Nuclear medicine uses small amounts of radioactive material for tests and treatments. In this type of scan, radioactive material is injected into a vein, swallowed or inhaled as a gas. A gamma camera tracks the radiation and captures images of your organs as they process these radioactive materials.

Why should I get a nuclear medicine scan?
This type of scan helps your doctor see your internal organs and find out if they function correctly. Your doctor uses this information to determine whether there is a problem and how serious it may be.

How much radiation does a nuclear medicine scan expose me to?
It depends on your size, the type of scan you receive and the radioactive material used.

For more information, call 913-588-1227 or 800-332-6048.