Entries in Radiation (30)


CT Scan Use Triples in 15 Years; Radiation Risk Justified?

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The use of CT scans has tripled in the last 15 years, a new study found, which means the average American is exposed to twice as much radiation from medical imaging as in the mid-1990s.

The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found the rate of CT scans per 1,000 American adults rose from 52 in 1996 to 149 in 2010 -- an annual growth of 7.8 percent. And experts say the added imaging may not be improving the quality of care.

"There has been the sense that the use of imaging is a panacea to answer questions and as a result, patients and physicians are really drawn to all kinds of imaging," said study author Dr. Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a professor of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco. "While imaging is outstanding in many clinical settings and truly improves patient outcomes, in other settings it is used without improving care at all."

The use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound also increased, according to the study. But those tests are not associated with radiation exposure.

Smith-Bindman spoke on June 8 about the safety of medical imaging before Congress.

"Some people have worried about the X-rays at our airports to screen passengers," she said in her testimony. "One CT scan is equal to approximately 200,000 airport screens."

Previous research has found that radiation from CT scans, which provides detailed images of internal organs using much higher doses of radiation than conventional X-rays, can lead to the development of cancer. And many patients receive multiple CT scans over time, compounding the risk.

Dr. Eric Larson, the executive director of the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, said, "Hardly a person gets out of an [emergency room] visit without a CT."

"For patients, doctors and others to realize that this may be increasing the rate of cancer is really important," Larson said.

In children, the cumulative dose of two brain CT scans triples the risk of brain cancer and leukemia, according to a study published June 7 in The Lancet. But experts agree that if a scan is clinically justified, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

"The increased health risk associated with increased use of radiation procedures is not of concern as long as it is accompanied by an equal or greater health benefit for the patients," said Dr. Tim Jorgensen of the department of radiation medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center.

Smith-Bindman said patients should ask their doctors if a CT scan is really necessary and find out how it will help their care. They should also make sure the doctor is using the lowest possible radiation dose.

The message for doctors ordering these tests is also clear, Smith-Bindman said.

"We need to treat our patients as partners, who need to understand both the benefits as well as the [harm] from imaging so that they can make informed choices," she said. "In general, patients make good decisions when they are given accurate information."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fukushima Radiation in Your Sushi?

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Those looking for evidence of the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan may need search no further than their next plate of sushi, Stanford University researchers report.

The researchers tested 15 Pacific bluefin tuna that had migrated from Japan to the California coast and found that the levels of radioactive cesium in these fish were 10 times higher than those found in bluefin tuna from the years before the disaster.

Before you swear off your maguro nigiri, it’s important to realize that the levels of radiation the researchers found from the cesium in the tuna were exceedingly low — about 30 times less than the amount of radiation given off by other common, naturally occurring elements in the tuna we eat.

The findings appeared Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The finding should be reassuring to the public,” said Timothy J. Jorgensen, associate professor of radiation medicine at Georgetown University, who was not involved with the study. “As anticipated, the tuna contained only trace levels of radioactivity that originated from Japan. These levels amounted to only a small fraction of the naturally occurring radioactivity in the tuna, and were much too small to have any impact on public health."

“Thus, there is no human health threat posed by consuming migratory tuna caught off the west coast of the United States,” he added.

Still, the fact that the researchers could trace this radioactive material back to its source in Japan could have implications for seafood monitoring methods in the future. Dr. Michael Harbut, director of the Environmental Cancer Program at Wayne State University’s Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, agreed that the findings are no cause for panic. But he said that the finding that tuna and migratory food animals could carry this radioactive material so far across the ocean deserves consideration.

“In general, when you hear the word ‘radiation’ at all, it’s cause for some alarm, and I agree always a cause for significant attention.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FDA Takes Steps to Lower Kids’ Radiation Exposure

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In an effort to make sure that kids don’t get too much radiation during medical tests, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed guidelines for manufacturers of medical imaging devices to make new equipment that takes children’s safety into account.

The agency is urging manufacturers to include instructions on how to safely use their devices in pediatric settings.  If device makers can’t prove their machines are safe and effective for use on children, they should warn against using them. The devices targeted by the FDA include those used for CT scans, X-rays (including dental), angiography and several others.

The guidance document, which will be opened for public comment on May 10, is part of a larger effort by the FDA, the medical imaging community and the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging to prevent unnecessary exposure to radiation during diagnostic testing.

“The FDA is especially worried about radiation exposure in younger patients,” said Jana Delfino, a biomedical engineer at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.  “Children are more radiation sensitive, have a longer expected lifetime and most importantly, equipment that is optimized for adults may result in excessive radiation exposures.”

Because children will most likely live longer than adults, any radiation effects have a longer time to manifest themselves.

Among those effects, according to the American Cancer Society, are numerous types of cancer, including lung cancer, skin cancer, breast cancer and multiple myeloma.

Despite the potential dangers of radiation, the number of children who receive CT scans, one of the most common diagnostic tests, has increased exponentially.

A 2011 study found that the number of visits to pediatric emergency rooms that involved a CT scan between 1995 and 2008 increased from .33 to 1.65 million, a five-fold increase.

The FDA’s guidelines offer some suggested features manufacturers can add to their new devices to make them safer for children, such as preset control settings, procedures, labeling and protocol that can minimize exposure while producing acceptable-quality images and an interface that will remind device users about pediatric concerns.

After the guidance document is released, the public will be invited to comment.  The FDA will hold a public meeting on July 16 and after that, will issue a final guidance.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Radiation from Japan Disaster Found Along California Coast

Hemera/Thinkstock(LONG BEACH, Calif.) -- Kelp along the California coast was found to be contaminated with radioactive material from a nuclear plant damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, according to a recent study.

Researchers at California State University, Long Beach found that the kelp contained radioactive iodine, cesium, xenon and other particles at levels unlikely to be detrimental to human health but much higher than the amounts measured before the disaster.

The levels were also about the same as those measured in British Columbia and Washington state after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion.

The researchers also expressed worry that the radioactivity could have made it into the coastal food chain, although they weren’t sure what impact that could have.

“Radioactivity is taken up by the kelp, and anything that feeds on the kelp will be exposed to this also,” said co-author Steven Manley in a news release.

Medical experts, however, said the disaster’s impact on U.S. public health was likely insignificant. Exposures of large numbers of people in past nuclear accidents, such as Chernobyl, have indicated that any radiation that reached the West Coast wouldn’t have much of an effect.

“But in Japan, the effects are as serious as we thought.  There’s still a lot of contamination there,” said Dr. Nagy Elsayyad, an assistant professor at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.  “Some areas are still getting contamination in the fish, and some of the radiation is very long-lasting.”

Manley and his co-author, Christopher Lowe, wrote that exposures along the North American coast should continue to be monitored.

“The resulting data would reveal the pattern of plume dispersal and the degree of contamination of the coastal community.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Cellphone Radiation Linked to Behavior Problems in Mice

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- A new study could re-ignite the debate over the potentially dangerous effects of cellphone radiation on children's behavior.

Researchers from the Yale School of Medicine found that exposing pregnant mice to radiation from a cellphone affected the behavior of their offspring later.  They found that the mice exposed to radiation as fetuses were more hyperactive, had more anxiety and poorer memory -- symptoms associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) -- than mice who were not exposed to radiation.

Neurological tests revealed that the radiation exposure led to abnormal development of neurons in the part of the brain linked to ADHD, leading the authors to suggest that cellphone radiation exposure may play a role in the disorder.

"During critical windows in neurogenesis, the brain is susceptible to numerous environmental insults; common medically relevant exposures include ionizing radiation, alcohol, tobacco, drugs and stress," wrote the authors, led by Dr. Hugh Taylor, professor and chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.

They added that while their study provides "the first experimental evidence of neuropathology due to in-utero cellular telephone radiation," the data are not conclusive, and more research is needed to determine the effects of radiation on humans or non-human primates.

Dr. F. Sessions Cole, professor of pediatrics and chief of newborn medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said that while the research is "provocative," the data are a long way from being applicable to humans.

"Mice are very different than humans," he said.  "The distance the phone was placed away from the mice in the study was between 4 and 20 centimeters, which is a very short distance compared to the distance from the ear to the womb in humans.  It's likely the dose of radiation the mice received is much greater than what a human fetus would receive."

Cole added that mice also have a much shorter gestation period, only 19 or 20 days, which can also mean a very different type of exposure than humans.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Radiation Therapy Linked to Secondary Cancers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While the number of cancer survivors has tripled since the 1970s and continues to grow, the cost of that survival for many has been the development of secondary cancers and cardiovascular disease related to radiation treatment, according to an upcoming report by a scientific committee.

The committee, convened by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, met over a period of five years to consider some of the most serious repercussions of radiation therapy and make recommendations to more comprehensively assess the risks related to treatment. They plan to issue a comprehensive report of their findings, and have also published commentary in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

"For many survivors, the cost of the cure of their cancer has been late, life-threatening effects of therapy," said Dr. Lois B. Travis, director of the Rubin Center for Cancer Survivorship at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "We recognized that secondary malignant neoplasms and cardiovascular disease are among the most serious adverse effects experienced by the growing number of survivors worldwide."

The development of these serious problems, she explained, are due to a combination of radiation therapy chemotherapy and other factors, including age, the environment, lifestyle habits and genetics.

Younger patients are especially susceptible to the effects of radiation, and the three cancers that have been most strongly associated with radiation are breast cancer, thyroid cancer and bone marrow cancers, including leukemia. Cardiovascular disease related to radiation therapy is most often associated with treatment for breast cancer and Hodgkin lymphoma, since radiation is applied to the chest.

While the committee focused its attention on radiation therapy, chemotherapy also carries the potential for life-threatening effects.

"With certain types of chemotherapy, there's an increased risk for developing leukemias," said Dr. Otis Brawley, medical director of the American Cancer Society.

Cole Whiting, just 10 years old, is now living with leukemia after beating another cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma of the sinuses, a few years back.

Shortly after completing 15 months of radiation treatment and chemotherapy for rhabdomyosarcoma, his family got word he developed yet another cancer -- acute myeloid leukemia.

"He was two weeks shy of finishing kindergarten when he got diagnosed. It was a result of the treatment he got for the first cancer," said his mother, Madonna Whiting. "It was even worse the second time, because we knew what we were in for having gone through it already."

Cole also suffers from problems with his short-term memory, has to regularly get growth hormone shots and take thyroid medication. He also found out that the roots of his teeth were destroyed, so all of his teeth will eventually fall out.

Whiting said the doctors did mention the possible long-term risks of Cole's cancer treatment, but at the time, all she could think about was dealing with his illness one day at a time.

"We had to do the chemotherapy to save my son's life," she said. "I wasn't even thinking about what could happen later at the time. I just wanted him to get well."

About 70 percent of children with cancer survive, and about 20 percent of those kids, like Cole, will experience five or more treatment-associated problems, Brawley said.

Childhood radiation may also have other effects later on, including fertility problems, stunted growth and cognitive deficits.

Clinicians say the benefits of radiation treatment for many types of cancer far outweigh the potential risks of experiencing serious adverse effects years later, and say radiation is now a lot safer than it once was.

"There is more advanced technology nowadays, and we can see structures we want to avoid and can shape the dose to avoid certain areas," said Dr. Candace Correa, assistant member of the Radiation Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. "Radiation is very important for cancer for many patients. It offers a very big treatment advantage."

"We try to use radiation as sparingly as possible, but unfortunately, it is frequently part of the cure in a lot of cancers and it's absolutely necessary," said Brawley.

Travis said that even though there are risks associated with radiation, there are certain changes patients can make to reduce their risk of secondary cancers.

"For example, patients can stop smoking. Smoking has been shown to multiply the risk of treatment-associated lung cancer after Hodgkin lymphoma," she said. "We need to reinforce basic health messages, such as advising patients to stop smoking or make dietary modifications."

Health promotion, she continued, should be a vital component of cancer treatment plans.

The committee also recommends that there be long-term follow-up of cancer patients to evaluate risks of developing secondary cancers and other treatment-related effects.

"It's not enough just to cure a cancer patient," Travis added. “We have to think downstream and ask what is the potential cost of the cure to the patient in the future."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


12-Year-Old Boy to Halt Cancer Treatment to Be with Family

AbleStock[dot]com/Hemera Technologies(SHELBYVILLE, Tenn.) -- A 12-year old boy who has battled a rare form of cancer since he was 7 has made a bold decision: He is stopping his treatments so he can go home and be with his family.

Alex Rodriguez is aware of what his decision means.  So is his hometown of Shelbyville, Tenn., which has rallied around the boy.

“I had the opportunity to meet Alex this summer,” Dr. Tracy Lampley, principal of Harris Middle School told ABC News.  “He is a very courageous young man to have a very mature adult outlook on life.  It’s amazing as a 12-year old he is really able to face the opportunities and challenges that he has in his remaining time.”

“He’s just a wonderful little boy,” Rodriguez’s grandmother Carolyn Camacho said. “He’s always happy.  No matter what he’s always happy and he doesn’t like to talk about his cancer.  It makes him sad and he wants to be happy.”

Rodriguez's school and neighbors have been touched by his choice and are trying to make his last days cheerful, raising money for his hospice care and taking care of his bucket list.

He has two wishes, to tour the Coca Cola factory in Atlanta, Ga., and go to the indoor water park at the Wilderness Resort in Tennessee.  He will see one of them come true over the weekend when he visits the Coca Cola factory Saturday morning, in a limo, the ride donated by a businessman.

Rodriguez was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer, when he was 7.  This type of cancer is made up of cells that normally develop into skeletal muscles and is more common in children than adults, according to the American Cancer Society.

He had surgery on his spine and had a bar and two “cages” -- cylinder devices in the spine to replace discs -- put into his back.  He had to learn how to walk again after the surgery and received radiation as well as chemotherapy.

The treatments worked, but only for two years.

When Alex was in the sixth grade, “He went for all of his scans and tests and they said everything was gone,” his grandmother said.  “Then two or three months later it came back and it hit him pretty hard.”

Once the cancer returned, Rodriguez again resumed chemotherapy and radiation, but the tumors kept coming back.

With only one choice left -- traveling to Texas for experimental treatments -- Rodriguez opted to stay home so he can be with his family.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Teen Gives Birth, Dies Days Later After Losing Fight to Cancer

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In early November, 17-year-old Jenni Lake gave birth to her son Chad Michael Lake Wittman.  Twelve days later, the  teen mom died from the brain tumor that she had been fighting for more than a year.

The migraines had started about a year before, when Jenni was a sophomore at Pocatello High School in Idaho.  After doctors found a two centimeter mass on her brain from an MRI scan, she was diagnosed with stage three astrocytoma, a tumor that affects the brain and spinal cord.  Doctors gave her a 30 percent chance of surviving two years with treatment.

Only weeks after Jenni was diagnosed with cancer, she found out she was 10 weeks pregnant.  Doctors told her she had to terminate the pregnancy or stop treatment while pregnant for the safety of the baby.  Jenni reportedly did not consider terminating the baby.  She decided to forgo radiation and chemotherapy while pregnant.

Her family documented the heartwrenching year through a series of YouTube videos titled, “Jenni’s Journey.”

“I don’t know how long this is going to last and I just want it to go away,” Jenni said in one of the videos uploaded on Nov. 20, 2010.

While the ability to conceive during cancer therapy is dependent on the type of therapy, Dr. Ian Holzman, chief of newborn medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said he has seen mothers who are either on cancer treatment or have postponed it until after delivery.  But, the risk to the baby from some toxic anti-tumor medications are indeed “real,” said Holzman.

According to Hope for Two, an organization designed for pregnant women with cancer, chemotherapy has been given to women in their second and third trimester, after the fetal organs have developed.  Cancer affects as many as one in 1,000 pregnancies, according to the organization.

A study published in September found that children born after their mothers were treated with chemotherapy during pregnancy appeared healthy, although many were born pre-term, which researchers said affected many of the children’s cognitive development.

But again, each mother’s case is individual to her diagnosis and treatment.

“The decision on how to proceed is a very personal one,” Holzman wrote in an email.  “The mother/family need to weigh possible maternal death against fetal/neonatal death and/or malformations. I would never 'recommend' one or another choice without having agonizing discussions with the family about their beliefs and goals. In some cases, the data are clear that cancer treatment, if not started immediately, will fail and in other cases it is less clear.  Similarly, the fetal/neonatal risks are clear and in others less clear.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Could Breast Cancer Treatment Result in Cognitive Problems?

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The chemotherapy and radiation that helps to save patients' lives comes with their own costs, and not all of them are physical. Breast cancer survivors have more to worry about than a return of the disease.
A new online analysis in the journal Cancer, published by the American Cancer Society, finds they may have problems with some mental abilities years after treatment.
The authors compared women who were treated with chemotherapy and radiation, women who were treated with radiation only and women with no history of cancer. They confirmed previous research that chemotherapy can cause problems with memory and concentration up to three years after treatment ends.
But those who got radiation only often had problems similar to those who received both chemotherapy and radiation -- suggesting chemotherapy isn't solely to blame for these side effects.
The study found no evidence of cognitive problems from hormonal therapy such as tamoxifen.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FCC Test to Measure Cellphone Radiation Flawed, Group Says

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A government test used to measure the radiation people absorb from their cellphones might underestimate the levels to which most adults and children are exposed, according to a group of doctors and researchers whose stated mission is to promote awareness of environmental health risks they believe may be linked to cancer.

Researchers from the Environmental Health Trust released a report Monday morning noting that the Federal Communications Commission test to determine radiation exposure is flawed.

The reason for the discrepancy, the group says, is that the process to determine radiation exposure from cellphones involves the use of a mannequin model that they say approximates a 6-foot-2, 220-pound person. Because the model represents only about three percent of the population, the authors report, the test will not accurately predict the radiation exposure of the other 97 percent of the population, including children. The group is pushing for a new testing system to measure radiation exposure in a wider range of consumers.

"The standard for cellphones has been developed based on old science and old models and old assumptions about how we use cellphones, and that's why they need to change," said Dr. Devra Davis, former senior adviser in the Department of Health and Human Services under the Clinton administration and one of the report's authors.

A different study cited in the report says a child's bone marrow absorbs 10 times the radiation as an adult. The authors also raise questions about long-term side effects, such as infertility in males who carry phones in their pockets, an exposure unaccounted for in the traditional certification process.

The authors suggest an alternative certification process, one that uses MRI scans to test real humans, including children and pregnant women. Such an approach would provide exposure data on a "Virtual Family," representing all ages, the authors say.

The U.S. government has had no specific comment on the report. The cellphone industry group CTIA-The Wireless Association said that because members "are not scientists or researchers on this topic," the news media should contact experts instead.

But whether the low level of radiation from cellphones actually causes cancer is a question that has yet to be answered. "No scientific evidence currently establishes a definite link between [cellphones] and cancer or other illnesses," the FCC says on its website.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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