Consumers have an important role in reducing radiation risks from medical X-rays. FDA recommends these steps:
Ask your health care professional how an X-ray will help. How will it help find out what's wrong or determine your treatment? Ask if there are other procedures that might be lower risk but still allow a good assessment or treatment for your medical situation.
- Don't refuse an X-ray. If your health care professional explains why it is medically needed, then don't refuse an X-ray. The risk of not having a needed X-ray is greater than the small risk from radiation.
- Don't insist on an X-ray. If your health care professional explains there is no need for an X-ray, then don't demand one.
Tell the X-ray technologist in advance if you are, or might be, pregnant.
Ask if a protective shield can be used. If you or your children are getting an X-ray, ask whether a lead apron or other shield should be used.
Ask your dentist if he/she uses the faster (E or F) speed film for X-rays. It costs about the same as the conventional D speed film and offers similar benefits with a lower radiation dose. Using digital imaging detectors instead of film further reduces radiation dose.
Know your X-ray history. "Just as you may keep a list of your medications with you when visiting the doctor, keep a list of your imaging records, including dental X-rays," says Ohlhaber. When an X-ray is taken, fill out the card with the date and type of exam, referring physician, and facility and address where the images are kept. Show the card to your health care professionals to avoid unnecessary duplication of X-rays of the same body part. Keep a record card for everyone in your family.
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