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Too many pediatric CT tests can lead to cancer

Parents may need to speak up and question the necessity of a test when a doctor places an order for a CT for their child. A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a prestigious medical journal, found children who underwent CT tests were at a higher risk for developing cancer later in life. As a result, that test your doctor is ordering may cause more problems for your child than it is worth.

The study found a specific element of the medical test was to blame for the increased risk: radiation. Exposure to radiation can be dangerous. Of course, the dangers of radiation exposure are not new. Scientists have long linked radiation exposure to cancer risk, but medical professionals and parents alike are now called to be aware of the risk medical tests that make use of radiation can have on children.

According to the study, CT scans were connected to an additional 5,000 cancers in children. These cancers do not develop until long after the test is administered, decades later. Medical professionals and the researchers behind these findings are not implying that children should avoid all testing. Instead, the goal is to increase parental awareness and encourage parents to ask questions before agreeing to testing.

Zorba Paster, family doctor and national talk show host for NPRs On Your Health, recommends parents ask two key questions. First, if your child is ill, can a diagnosis be made without a CT scan? Also, if the doctor's child were in this position, would the doctor run the test on his or her own child? After gathering this information, parents should make their own decision.

Source: Wisconsin State Journal, "Dr. Zorba Paster: CT scans and children," Dr. Zorba Paster, July 17, 2013

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