Questions and Answers about Radiation Safety

Imaging tests are an important part of patient care. If your doctor recommends a test that uses radiation, it is because the particular test ordered is the best one to diagnose your condition. Imaging tests use low amounts of radiation to take pictures of your body and help your doctor diagnose or rule out certain medical conditions. X-rays or CT scans are examples of medical imaging tests.

Committed to putting patients’ safety first by:

  • Lowering the amount of radiation used in medically necessary imaging studies
  • Eliminating unnecessary procedures

Common questions about imaging testing:

Is radiation present in all imaging testing?

Not all imaging tests use radiation. In fact, ultrasounds and MRIs do not use radiation. Other tests like the ones listed below use a low amount of radiation:

  • CT scans
  • Mammograms
  • Nuclear Medicine Tests
  • PET/CT scans
  • X-rays

How much radiation exists in imaging tests?

Radiation exists naturally in our everyday lives and our exposure to small amounts of “background” radiation occurs each year through air, minerals, soil, sunlight, and water. The amount of radiation in most imaging tests is small and is similar to what we experience on a daily basis.

Are there risks from radiation exposure?

High amounts of radiation can increase a person’s cancer risk. The risk of radiation from cancer depends on the person’s amount of exposure from “background” or imaging radiation over time.

However, imaging testing uses such a small amount of radiation and the benefits of testing outweigh any possible risks. Your doctor will review your imaging tests over the past and may choose another test if necessary.

Are there risks from radiation?

Exposure to large amounts of radiation may increase the risk of developing cancer later in life. However, imaging exams use a low-level of radiation, so the risk of developing cancer from these types of exams is very small when compared to an individual’s normal cancer risk. For most patients, the benefits of an imaging test outweigh any potential risk.

Can I have too many imaging tests?

Radiation exposure from both natural sources and medical imaging adds up over your lifetime. It is important to let your physician know about any tests you have had outside of Henry Ford. If you have had several imaging tests with radiation in the past, your physician may choose an alternative test to help minimize your cancer risk.

Can I get an imaging test if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

If you are expecting or nursing, ask your physician whether an imaging exam is right for you or if there is a suitable alternative. When your condition requires an imaging exam to make a diagnosis or guide treatment, Henry Ford uses special precautions to help minimize radiation exposure to your fetus or nursing baby.

What can I do to lower my radiation exposure?

  • Inform your doctor if you think you are or may be pregnant or you are breastfeeding
  • Let your doctor know about any imaging testing you have had outside of Henry Ford
  • Manage your care by asking your doctor if you need the test and its value regarding your care

Where can I learn more about my radiation risk?

If you have additional questions regarding radiation safety or your particular risk, talk to your Henry Ford physician at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital. The American College of Radiology and the Radiological Society of North America has developed a website for that provides additional information about radiation in imaging tests.

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