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Ask The Expert - Ann Hughes, M.D.
Freehold Radiology Group
FreeholdMR Associates, PA
901West Main St.
(Donna O’Donnell Medical Arts Bldg.)
Freehold Radiology Group
FreeholdMR Associates, PA
176 Route 9N
(Northpoint Professional Bldg.)
freeholdrad.comFreehold Radiology and Freehold MRAssociates is staffed by 13 board certified, university-trained physicians who are committed to excellence in imaging and service. They are ACR accredited by the American College of Radiology for PET/CT, MRI, CT, Breast MR, Digital Mammography and Ultrasound. Freehold Radiology and Freehold MRAssociates was recently named a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence.
Many of us have been reading a lot about lowering the levels of radiation in CT’s over the last year or so . Can you tell our readers a bit about this and what this means to the patient?
Every year in United States, approximately 8 million CT scans are performed. CT scanning is an extremely valuable tool which allows physicians to diagnose illness and evaluate injuries. Radiation exposure is a concern in all of our patients. For any individual patient, the risk of radiation exposure must be balanced with the benefit of the examination. One responsibility of the radiologist is to assist the referring physician in selecting the proper examination and protocol for each individual patient. In recent years, there have been significant in advancements in the equipment and protocols for CT scanning. Organizations such as the American College of Radiology (ACR) are constantly reviewing and revising protocols and criteria that allow the radiologists to continue their attempts to lower the dose to our patients. This allows us to reduce the radiation dose as well as tailor examinations for each patient. This is particularly important in imaging children, who are smaller than adults and require different protocols to reduce the radiation dose. The newer protocol allows us to change certain parameters which decreases the radiation dose without significantly affecting the image quality and diagnostic ability of the study.
In fact, for the individual, the perceived risk of an exam is often overestimated. In fact, we are exposed to radiation on a daily basis...from cosmic rays to the food and water we ingest. Readers may be surprised to hear that a typical adult emits a tiny amount of radiation, 24,000 gamma rays per minute!
So, what does this mean to the layman?
It is easier to assess the risks of radiation if we can compare it to risks we are exposed to every day. Using rough comparisons, a single chest x-ray is equivalent to one day's background radiation or two round trip flights cross country. A head CT would equal about eight month’s background, and a chest CT up to one year. In addition, the body can repair itself over time so exposures spread out over years are less important than repeated exposure over a short period.
Breast Cancer Awareness month is approaching and with all of the attention it has been getting in encouraging women not to put off their screening, what specifically would you say are the keys to helping mitigate the occurrence of breast cancer?
Many women today are so busy with their family and career obligations that they put off their own health. Routine yearly mammography is recommended in women after age 40, or earlier if there is a family history. The exam can be performed quickly and with minimal discomfort. Unfortunately, compression of tissue is key to diagnosis so scheduling the exam when the breast is least sensitive is helpful. It is also easy to slip in a monthly self exam in the shower. An important fact to remember is that as good as mammography is in finding cancer, it is not infallible. If a woman has an abnormality which concerns her but the mammography is normal, she should see her physician for further evaluation. Ultrasound and MRI of the breast are additional studies which can investigate these complaints. When combined with clinical exam, these studies are the best chance for early diagnosis and cure.
If there was one key thing you would tell a prospective patient to look fori n choosing a Radiologist/Group what would that be and why?
In choosing a radiology group, it is important that the physicians are board certified. This means that they have adequate training and have passed rigorous exams before certification. The offices should be ACR certified as well, which ensures the practice uses updated equipment and follows protocols to insure lowest allowable radiation exposure and have passed testing for optimal images.
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