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Diagnostic X-rays: By far more helpful than harmful

» Mammography as a case in point

» Enormous advantages

Take these X-ray precautions

  • Protect yourself from X-ray scatter. During dental X-ray exams or X-rays of arms or legs, always request a lead apron to protect reproductive organs.
  • Avoid elective X-rays during pregnancy. For women of childbearing age, all nonemergency X-rays should be done within 10 days of the start of your menstrual cycle, when pregnancy is highly unlikely.
  • Hold still for the picture. If you’re uncomfortable and can’t remain perfectly still, be sure to let the technologist know. Any movement may blur the film, and the X-ray will have to be repeated.

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.

Mammography as a case in point

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.

Enormous advantages

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.

© 2014 Dowden Health Media