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Children are at risk of cancer through CT diagnosis

Children are at risk of cancer through CT diagnosis

Thousands of children contract cancer by CT scan

A US study on the use of computed tomography (CT) in children and adolescents revealed frightening findings. According to the scientists, about 5,000 cancers result from CT examinations in the US every year - pediatricians could counteract this with simple means. A combination of two methods could reduce the number of cancers by around 60 percent.

Computer tomography: advantages and disadvantages of modern X-ray imaging The computer tomogram provides valuable information about injuries and diseases of a patient, including broken bones and bleeding, within a very short time. Especially in accident medicine, the futuristic-looking tubes are therefore often the method of choice. While lying down, the patient is pushed into the computer tomograph and examined from different perspectives using radioactive radiation. A computer then uses the individual images to calculate cross-sectional images of the human body. A regular examination rarely takes longer than ten minutes.

Patients are also aware of the radiation exposure to an x-ray, but the same obviously does not apply to computer tomography - which essentially consists of many individual x-rays. The comprehensive insight on the part of the radiologists therefore has direct disadvantages for patients, specifically a 100 to 500 times higher radiation exposure. Children in particular are at risk, scientists from the University of California now warn around Diana Miglioretti from the Department of Public Health Science.

Children at risk of cancer in particular For the study by the US scientists, CT examinations of children under the age of 15 were evaluated. The dose of radioactive radiation was also evaluated on site in 744 cases. The first finding: "The use of computed tomography in children younger than five years doubled between 1996 and 2005, and even tripled for children from five to 14 years." However, it is reassuring that the numbers initially remain constant in the following years, and finally even fall off. A rethink is apparently now taking place.

"Younger patients and girls are more likely to develop cancer than older patients and boys," the US scientists explain. In addition to the lower radiation tolerance, this is primarily due to the remaining lifespan, which enables the mutations to accumulate in the cell's genetic material. Depending on their age, the scientists predict that girls will have “serious cancer for every 300 to 390 CT examinations of the lower abdomen, all 330 to 480 examinations of the chest and all 270 and 800 examinations of the spine.” This results from the 4 million CT scans annually an estimated 4,870 cancers.

Fewer CT examinations reduce cancers, however, the number of cancers could be greatly reduced, the researchers explain. If one foregoes unnecessary examinations using computed tomography, a reduction of around a third is possible. If the radiation dose used were also reduced to a minimum, the number of cancers could be reduced by around 43 percent. A combination of both methods would avoid around 60 percent of the tumors.

Pediatric radiology Wolfgang Hiersch meanwhile calms down: In this country, a CT examination is used much less often, he explains. A slow rethink has only been taking place in the United States for a few years. There, for example, appendicitis is still diagnosed in children as standard by means of CT, whereas in this country only ultrasound examinations have long been used. "Doctors still have to ask themselves again and again whether an examination using a computer tomograph is necessary. Christoph Heyer of the Ruhr University of Bochum emphasizes: "Despite this fundamentally positive situation, there is also a tendency for us to use CT more in children due to its outstanding image quality and speed." (Lb)

Image: by-sassi / pixelio.de

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