My kids were at the dentist this weekend for their routine cleaning and check ups (yes, Saturday hours!) when the hygienist mentioned x-rays. I smiled and mentioned I’d rather discuss the need with the dentist after his exam. This isn’t a dental x-ray thing, this is what I do for every test that involves ionizing radiation. My son, Oliver, has had more radiation than most people will have. Ever. In fact, ...

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A recent study has concluded that women with breast cancer who failed to get annual mammograms are more likely to die from their disease than those who had annual mammograms, and argues that more frequent mammograms are warranted in women under age 40. Unfortunately, despite all the media attention this study is getting, I don’t think the researcher’s conclusions are supported by the study results. The researchers did a retrospective ...

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Now that I am a "civilian," I get to experience the health care system like most of you. I marvel at the degree to which customer service mechanisms used by service providers in other sectors do not exist in health care. Please understand that I am not talking about the quality of care, or empathy, or attentiveness offered by doctors, nurses, radiology techs, lab techs and the like. On that ...

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I’ve been writing a lot about CT scans lately. Why are so many being done, and which children with head trauma really need one? CTs are really kind of neat—it’s amazing that we can peer into your body to see what’s going on in there. But like every other medical intervention and treatment, there are positives and negatives, pros and cons, a ying and a yang. I’ve mentioned some downsides ...

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Lung cancer screening CT took its most important step toward widespread implementation last week, when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released a draft of its forthcoming recommendation that the 9 million U.S. people meeting entry criteria for the National Lung Screening Trial (age 55-79, with 30+ pack-years smoking history and quit < 15 years) should undergo yearly low-dose lung cancer screening CT. The recommendation earned a Grade B in the USPSTF’s ...

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Many, myself included, have written about the overuse of head computed tomography (CT) scanning in children. This concern has become more focused now that we have some data on the radiation risk of those scans. The bottom line is not that we should stop doing head CTs in children, but that we should always balance the risk against the benefit, just as we should do with all medical testing. In ...

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Hospital transport arrives to take my daughter just after 9am. We’d been told her ultrasound and x-ray were scheduled for 10am, an hour away. Jess and I exchange a look. She’s just about to take another swig of the laxative drink she’s been drinking since 8:30. “I’ll go with you,” I say. “We’ll make sure there’s a bathroom nearby.” Strike one for the Golden Cocoon. We get to the ultrasound department, and are left ...

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A study published in the British Medical Journal highlights the importance of carefully choosing which children should receive diagnostic CT scans.  As a diagnostic test, CT scans utilize ionizing radiation that can cause cellular DNA damage, increasing the risk of cancer.  Children who received a CT scan were 25% more likely to develop a cancer in 10 years after radiation exposure, according to a study of 11 million ...

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A JAMA Pediatrics article found that the use of pediatric CT scans rose in the late 1990′s and early 2000′s. Further, research shows that these CT scans can increase risk for future cancer diagnoses. Authors calculated the risk: they estimate that for every 4 million pediatric CT scans preformed annually, some 4800 children will go on to develop cancer as a result. Like many studies published this decade, the ...

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Emily wrote in about an article about prenatal ultrasounds and autism: “I saw this on The Daily Beast today. Is the media trying to freak us expecting couples out or what? How big of a question is this in scientific circles or is this just sensational stuff? Sometimes I think there should be studies about how the internet causes anxiety disorders!” A good question, and another post that I’m going ...

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