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Cancer Patients Unaware of the Risks of X-Rays

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Kaitlynn Martin1 year ago

According to a study by Reuters Health, most patients do not know about the risks of radiation exposure from X-rays and other diagnostic imaging tests that are used to detect cancer.

Overview of the X-ray Risk Study

For the study, survey data from more than 5,400 people who had diagnostic imaging at a cancer center was analyzed. The patients were surveyed to see how much they knew about ionizing radiation. .

Despite the negative bias, energy emitted from a source is generally referred to as radiation. This can consist of heat or light, microwaves from an oven, X-rays, and more according to the World Health Organization.

Patients were overall confused about what types of tests used ionizing radiation, and only about 22 percent could correctly define ionizing radiation as a type of energy.

It was found that only about 35 percent of them knew that computerized tomography (CT) scans used ionizing radiation. Roughly 29 percent thought that MRI scans used it, which is false.

The risks from these doses of radiation were also not well understood by the patients. When it comes to the patients who knew there was a risk from CT scans, 24 percent thought a risk was sterility, while 12 percent thought there was a risk of radiation sickness, or child mutations. The scans do not carry any of these risks.

Limitations of the Study

A limitation of the study was that it was done at a single cancer center, and it might be different at another one. The response rate was also only that of 11 percent.

According to radiology research Dr. Leonard Berlin, it is likely that patients have a lack of knowledge because they rely simply on their doctors for recommendations.  He also states that patients do not ask enough questions about the risk of the exam.

Researcher Dr. Hans-David Hartwig believes patients should ask questions about the risks when exposed to the radiation repeatedly, as excessive exposure can cause damage to the body’s cells and DNA.

Risks of Radiation Exposure

Information provided by the Environmental Protection Agency:

  • Radiation effects depend on the level of exposure
  • Chronic exposure can lead to cancer, tumors, and harmful genetic changes
  • A very large amount of exposure, acute exposure, can cause sickness or death within hours or days
  • Low levels can still cause cancer according to current science


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