29,000 Cancers Every Year From CT Scans-Regulation Needed to Save Lives

Consumer Health Quality CouncilIn his recent blog post, Dr. Bob Wachter (a national leader in patient safety and health care quality), expressed his concern about the overuse and safety of CT scans in the U.S.

HCFA and the Consumer Health Quality Council (www.hcfama.org/consumercouncil), are supporting legislation filed by Representative Stephen Kulik that will require the Department of Public Health to investigate the use of CT scans in Massachusetts and make suggestions for tracking and reducing CT scan use.

Dr. Wachter’s concern was sparked when he recently attended grand rounds at UCSF, lead by Dr. Rebecca Smith-Bindman, and learned that a 20 year old woman who gets an abdominal-pelvic CT has a 1 in 250 chance of developing cancer from that single scan. According to Dr. Wachter, any young woman who goes to an ER for stomach pain is likely to receive an abdominal-pelvic CT.

Dr. Wachter reported a few additional eye opening statistics in his article including:

  • In 2011 there will be approximately 17 million CT scans performed. In 1980 this number was only 3 million.
  • Experts suggest one third of CT scans performed are unnecessary.
  • A recent study found that radiation from CT scans causes 29,000 cancer cases each year in the U.S.

With data emerging about the risk of CT scans, little has been done to regulate their use. In her research, Dr. Smith-Bindman found significant variations in the amount of radiation being emitted for the same test from different scanners in the same geographical area, and also found that some were emitting 66% more radiation than is standard.

Massachusetts General Hospital has already begun to address this issue by developing CT scan appropriateness protocols, which have significantly reduced their use of CT scans. While this is a great start, Dr.Wachter points out that the most important and greatest challenge is to change the culture around and over-reliance on CT scans.

To help advance our effort to track the use of CT scans in MA, call your Massachusetts State Representative and Senator and ask them to support to H. 597, HCFA’s bill directing DPH to examine the use of CT scans in children and adults and recommend changes to reduce risk to health. Please read our fact sheet (.doc) on the bill for more details.
-Margot Schwartz

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2 Responses to 29,000 Cancers Every Year From CT Scans-Regulation Needed to Save Lives

  1. Pingback: Why we need payment reform, reason number 36,050 |

  2. Pingback: The Blog Line, 2-17 « AHLAlerts: American Health Line’s Blog

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