CT Scans: Too Much Radiation?
I recently fell and fractured my acetabulum (the area of the hip that connects to the thigh bone) in two places. I had my third CT scan today, and I'm worried about all the radiation I'm getting. Is there any way to rid my body of some of the radiation I have absorbed from these tests? My husband and I want to have another child in the near future, but I'm worried about what all the radiation may be doing to my eggs.
In general, I believe everyone should be wary of X-rays, including CT scans (or computed tomography scans, an X-ray technique that produces a cross-section picture of the body). Because your body absorbs X-rays, they contribute to your total radiation exposure over time, and that cumulative total correlates with your lifetime risk for certain health problems, such as cancer. The more radiation you're exposed to, the higher your risk.
That said, you always have to balance the health risk associated with X-rays with the diagnostic benefits. CT scans are particularly useful because they can show lung, bone, soft tissue, and blood vessels with great clarity. From what you've told me, I can't judge whether the three CT scans you've had were all necessary, but almost all types of imaging tests are overused. Radiologists often minimize the hazards and fail to fully inform patients of the risks. You might be interested to know that radiologists have a shorter life expectancy than other doctors -- and a higher incidence of cancers known to be induced by radiation.
Diagnostic CT scans (and other X-rays) shouldn't affect your fertility, but if there is any chance you may already be pregnant, make sure you tell your doctor before further CT scans are recommended. (Exposure to high levels of radiation during a pregnancy can cause birth defects.)
My advice is to be sure you understand exactly why any X-ray is necessary before consenting to one. Never agree to repeat X-rays for legal or insurance purposes, and don't allow dentists to X-ray your teeth just because they want to. (If your teeth are in good shape and you're taking care of them, an X-ray every two years is sufficient.)
Unfortunately, there is no way to rid your body of accumulated radiation (beware of products that claim to be able to do this). The best thing you can do is to safeguard your general health by taking antioxidant vitamins and minerals, drinking plenty of water, eating well, and exercising regularly.