What to Ask Your Doctor About CT Scans and Other Diagnostic Imaging Tests

Rosemary Gibson is author of The Treatment Trap, How the Overuse of Medical Care Is Wrecking Your Health and What You Can Do to Prevent It.

Seventy million CT scans, sometimes called CAT scans, are performed every year. These and other diagnostic imaging tests provide valuable information to doctors about your medical condition and the treatment that is best for you.

However, researchers have found that CT scans can expose patients to radiation levels that can be 50 to 500 times higher than that of a standard x-ray. According to studies, doctors significantly underestimate the radiation exposure to patients. High doses of radiation increase the risk of cancer.

To ensure you receive only the tests you need, no more and no less, make certain your doctor knows about other CT scans, nuclear medicine tests and diagnostic imaging tests you may have had.

Here are five questions to ask your doctor:

  1. What is the reason for the test?
  2. Will it make a difference in my treatment?
  3. What happens if I don’t have it?
  4. Is there an alternative approach that doesn’t involve radiation exposure, such as ultrasound or an MRI?
  5. Should I be concerned about the cumulative radiation exposure from the diagnostic tests I’ve had?

By asking these questions, you will provide important information to your doctor. Also, you will take more control over your health and your health care. That’s a good thing.