There are many diagnostic medical tests that involve radiation exposure, including X-rays and computed tomography scans.
People with medical conditions requiring frequent medical imaging, and children, are at greater risk of harm from radiation exposure.
To help consumers assess their risk and take steps to reduce exposure, Beaumont Hospitals has launched a radiation safety call center and a radiation safety Web site.
The call center is staffed 24 hours a day by registered nurses, specially trained and supported by Beaumont's radiation safety experts. The center's toll-free phone number is 888-388-MYCT (6928).
The radiation safety Web site, with questions and answers on radiation safety, comparisons of radiation doses for various diagnostic tests and a radiation tracking wallet card, can be accessed here.
Beaumont will also be hosting a Web chat with radiation safety and imaging experts on Wednesday, March 24, Noon-1 p.m. Go to http://www.beaumonthospitals.com/ to participate in the chat.
"In general, the risk of developing cancer from radiation exposure is not a major concern when compared to the benefits of medical imaging procedures, " says Duane Mezwa, M.D., corporate chief of diagnostic imaging, Beaumont Hospitals. "By asking questions and making wise imaging choices, patients can reduce their radiation exposure when they require medical imaging, especially higher dose exams such as computed tomography."
"New CT technology, such as the Siemen's Somatom Definition Flash CT, significantly reduces radiation exposure for a CT chest scan from an average dose of 8-20 millisieverts (a measurement of medical radiation) to less than 1 millisievert," says Dr. Mezwa. "The reduction in radiation exposure is especially beneficial for people with chronic medical conditions requiring frequent imaging, trauma patients, heart patients and children."
The three Beaumont hospitals are currently the only hospitals in Michigan with Flash CTs.
Radiation exposure may also be reduced when technologists use special "gating" techniques to lower tube voltage during CT imaging tests. In June 2009, a Beaumont-led study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that radiation exposure for heart CTs can be cut in half using these techniques with no effect on image quality. Beaumont cardiologists are leading a statewide collaborative research study of CT heart scanning that includes hospitals throughout Michigan.
In addition to using radiation for diagnostic testing, it is also used in therapies to treat certain cancers through a medical specialty called radiation oncology.
Beaumont radiation oncologists have pioneered new treatments and technology for pinpoint accuracy in targeting cancerous cells, while protecting adjoining healthy tissues and organs from radiation exposure. One of these inventions is Omnibeam, that combines CT imaging and robotic technology with a linear accelerator, a machine that treats cancer with a radiation beam. Invented and patented by Alvaro Martinez, M.D., chairman of Radiation Oncology, Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Omnibeam's real-time imaging allows the radiation beam to be precisely targeted and automatically adjusted to account for movement in a patient's internal organs, changes in patient positioning or breathing.
"It's very important that patients with cancer research their treatment options," says Dr. Martinez. "If radiation oncology treatment is recommended, they should choose a center that treats a high number of patients and one that's involved in clinical research, because such centers have greater expertise and can offer the latest treatment advancements."
Beaumont's radiation oncologists are ranked among the top 20 in the nation for their research and its impact, according to a study published in the February 2009 Journal of the American College of Radiology. When considering academic productivity and its impact among individual physicians, Beaumont ranks first in the nation.