Posted: October 19th, 2023
Is X-ray Care Causing More Harm Than Good?
Is X-ray Care Causing More Harm Than Good?
X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation that can penetrate the human body and produce images of bones, organs, and other structures. X-rays are widely used in medicine for diagnosis, treatment, and research. However, x-rays also carry some risks, such as exposure to ionizing radiation, which can damage the cells and DNA and increase the risk of cancer and other diseases. Therefore, it is important to weigh the benefits and harms of x-ray care and use it judiciously.
Benefits of X-ray Care
X-ray care has many benefits for patients and health care providers. Some of the benefits are:
– X-rays can help diagnose various conditions, such as fractures, infections, tumors, lung diseases, heart problems, and more. X-rays can provide accurate and detailed information about the location, size, shape, and extent of the problem, which can help guide the treatment and prognosis.
– X-rays can help monitor the progress and effectiveness of treatment, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or medication. X-rays can show whether the condition has improved, worsened, or remained stable over time.
– X-rays can help prevent complications and improve outcomes. For example, x-rays can help detect foreign objects, such as bullets or shrapnel, that may cause infection or bleeding. X-rays can also help identify potential problems before they become serious, such as bone fractures that may lead to disability or deformity.
– X-rays can help advance medical knowledge and innovation. X-rays are used in research to study the structure and function of the human body and its diseases. X-rays are also used to develop new techniques and technologies, such as digital x-ray imaging, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET).
Harms of X-ray Care
X-ray care also has some harms that need to be considered. Some of the harms are:
– X-rays expose the patient and the health care provider to ionizing radiation, which can damage the cells and DNA and increase the risk of cancer and other diseases. The risk depends on the dose, frequency, duration, and type of x-ray exposure, as well as the age, sex, and health status of the individual. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), exposure to ionizing radiation is estimated to cause about 3% of all cancers worldwide.
– X-rays may cause adverse reactions or side effects in some patients. For example, some patients may experience allergic reactions to the contrast agents used to enhance the visibility of certain structures on x-ray images. Some patients may also experience pain, discomfort, or anxiety during or after the x-ray procedure.
– X-rays may lead to overdiagnosis or overtreatment in some cases. Overdiagnosis means detecting a condition that would not have caused any symptoms or harm if left undetected. Overtreatment means providing unnecessary or excessive treatment that may not improve the patient’s health or quality of life. For example, some studies have suggested that screening mammography for breast cancer may lead to overdiagnosis and overtreatment of some women who have non-life-threatening tumors or benign lesions.
X-ray care is a valuable tool in medicine that can provide many benefits for patients and health care providers. However, x-ray care also carries some risks that need to be balanced with the benefits. Therefore, x-ray care should be used appropriately and responsibly, following the principles of justification (the benefit outweighs the harm), optimization (the dose is as low as reasonably achievable), and limitation (the exposure is within acceptable limits). By doing so, x-ray care can improve health outcomes and reduce harm.
– World Health Organization (WHO). Ionizing radiation: sources and biological effects. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ionizing-radiation-sources-and-biological-effects
– American College of Radiology (ACR). Benefits vs Risks. https://www.acr.org/Quality-Safety/Radiology-Safety/Radiation-Safety/Benefits-vs-Risks
– National Cancer Institute (NCI). Radiation Risks and Pediatric Computed Tomography (CT): A Guide for Health Care Providers. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/radiation/pediatric-ct-scans
– Welch HG, Prorok PC, O’Malley AJ, Kramer BS. Breast-Cancer Tumor Size,
Overdiagnosis, and Mammography Screening Effectiveness. N Engl J Med.