But do you need to freak out if your child has a medical problem and your doc wants to scan your kid?
The study looked at a group of 180,000 kids and found that those who had the equivalent of 2-3 CT scans before age had a jump in leukemia rates. Those who had 4-5 CT scans had triple the risk of developing brain tumors.
Researchers believe the reason is a CT scan packs a wallop of radiation and can cause cancerous changes to a growing body.
But two things to keep in mind:
1. The study did not look at any other factors that might predispose a child to cancer. In other words, they simply asked how many CT scans had been done and noted a higher rate in those who had been scanned.
2. The overall risk was pretty small. As in, out of those 180,000 kids, there was a total of 74 children with leukemia, and 135 with brain tumors. You’d like the number to be zero obviously, but yet 74 out of 180,000 is not a very high rate.
The bottom line: avoid CT when you can. But if you’re not a doctor, how the heck should you know when a CT is needed or not?
As a rule, we use them in serious head or spine injuries. We used to use them a lot to diagnose appendicitis–now we use more ultrasound. And in not-so-serious knocks to the head, we may ask you to hang for several hours in the ER so we can observe your child-perhaps avoiding a CT if he or she does well.
Don’t be afraid to ask: “Is this scan really necessary?” “What are the alternatives?” “What is the risk if we wait?”