Fewer Scans May Lower Breast Cancer Risk

Understanding the Risks and Benefits of Medical Imaging




While screening for breast cancer is important, women should avoid unnecessary medical imaging, according to a recent report issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) which identified two factors that increased the risk for the disease: post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy and radiation exposure from medical imaging.

Physician Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging, epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California-San Francisco, who contributed to the IOM report, notes that CT scans and other forms of medical imaging have revolutionized medicine and can be lifesaving. However, she recommends that women engage their doctors in the decision-making process and discuss the necessity and safety of all potential radiological scans.

To understand the risks and benefits, it’s suggested women ask their doctor: “Is this scan absolutely essential? Is it necessary to do it now? Are there other, alternative tests [such as thermography]? How can I be sure the test will be done in the safest way possible? Will having the scan information change the management of my disease? Can I wait until after seeing a specialist before getting the scan?”

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