Ever since Wilhelm Konrad von Roentgen discovered X-rays in 1895, the process has been hailed as one of medicine’s greatest advances. By detecting broken bones, dental cavities, tumors, damage to internal organs, certain types of heart disease and other medical problems, X-rays help to pinpoint proper treatment and can save lives.
But some women worry that the radiation they’re exposed to when they have X-rays might cause birth defects in their children or cancer in themselves. Just how safe are X-rays? According to experts, unless you’re having an X-ray every day for a prolonged period of time, there’s no need for concern.
Consider the example of mammograms, which are X-ray examinations of the breasts. According to the American Cancer Society, modern mammography equipment produces high quality images using a very small radiation dose – only 0.1 to 0.2 centigray (cGy) per picture. To put that dose in perspective, a woman with breast cancer who is treated with radiation therapy receives about 5000 cGy.
The bottom line? The benefits of finding a tumor in an early and treatable stage far outweigh the extremely small amount of radiation you receive from a yearly exam.