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Dr Shoshana Scott

How to Have a Safe Xray

Tuesday, Jun 30 - 2015

This June I had the good fortune to discuss and learn more about how to have a safe xray taken with the assistance of a young woman graduating from the radiation technology course at Camosun College this fall.

Radiation technology is a growing industry. More and more patients require diagnosis using radiation technologies such CT scans. The standard X ray is  one type of radiation technology which is most often used to produce an image of your bones and teeth. 

I had the opportunity to ask Jessica if she ever worries about safely issues within her industry, thinking expressly of her possible exposure to repeated doses of radiation. She rolled her eyes and said that for herself she is not worried. She knew how to keep herself safe. That she always, always, uses the lead or screen provided to shield herself. But "Safety for patients" she said, "that is another story."

She was quite intense on the topic, raising her voice and lifting her hands to emphasize her point -- that patients are exposed too more x ray beams far more often than they ought to be. Especially children she said. 

How and when I wondered could that happen and what can be done about it? She answered simply, “lead everything”. What she meant is that when a child has dental xrays, while they often put lead over the child, they seldom put it over the neck area where the important organ gland the thyroid gland is situated. The rates of thyroid cancer are steadily growing she said and children do not need this gland exposed to unnecessary radiation at their age. Please ask for the lead neck cuff for your child to fully cover the thryoid gland during dental xrays.

"Furthermore" said she, "people who are over 55 years old are not required to be leaded. Do you think people over age 55 suddenly become impervious to cancer? Its not true, they matter just as much and should be fully protected. All patients who are able should ask to be fully leaded, that mean over the entire body or far more of it than what they do in the current practice whenever an xray is taken. It takes two seconds to lay the lead sheet over your body and it will protect you."

Lastly she said, please ensure patients receive the number of  X-rays than they need and no more. Common practice is for a whole hand and wrist to be x-rayed for an injuried thumb for example. This requires far more xrays due to the need for many angles of each part, than would be taken if only the thumb were done., Last time this happened at the hospital, as the X ray tech,Jessica went back to the doctor who had ordered the X-rays and explained that only the thumb was the sight of the injury. The number of required X-rays was reduced substantially. "I am a student there so I can't get fired for being a pain in the neck!" she said laughing.

One last note is that some radiation technologies are required for cortisone injections so that the sight can be watched live as the liquid is being injected. This is called fluoroscopy. . During a fluoroscopy procedure, an X-ray beam is passed through the body. In this case don’t forget to ask for the lead covering for your whole body. The same principle applies for CT scans, which are special X-ray tests that produce cross-sectional images of the body using X-rays and a computer.

X-rays  can be very safe but we need to remember to ask to be leaded to make them that way. 


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