Many Patients Know Too Little About Their MRI, CT Scans: Study

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TUESDAY, Feb. 13, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Before they go in for an X-ray, CT scan or MRI, patients may have questions about their screening. But new research finds at least one in every five people saying they received no information about their procedures beforehand.

"This is an important finding in today's health care system, where we want more patient engagement and involvement," said lead author Dr. Jay Pahade, an associate professor of radiology at Yale School of Medicine.

In the study, typical patient questions around imaging scans included: How do I prepare for the scan?; Does it use radiation, and how much?; and Is this scan really needed?

For the study, researchers surveyed more than 1,400 patients and caregivers at three pediatric and three adult hospitals across the United States. The participants were asked if they had received imaging exam information before the procedure, and what type of information would be most helpful.

Less than 80 percent of patients said they received information about their imaging exam beforehand, according to the study.

"This means one in five people are showing up for the exam without any information about the test they are getting," Pahade said.

He noted that patients who feel they have little idea about what their scan involves also experience higher levels of anxiety around the screening.

The study showed that "patients value basic information related to the test [itself] more than information related to the radiation dose, so we should probably shift our focus to providing that," Pahade said.

"In the radiology realm, we need to take more ownership over the entire imaging process," Pahade explained in a news release from the Radiological Society of North America. "One big gap has been in the pre-imaging part of that process, and the data show we have work to do in closing that gap."

Half of the respondents reported seeking information themselves, often on the internet, the researchers said. To help this group of patients, "we need to increase visibility of sites that provide some of this information," Pahade suggested.

The findings were published online Feb. 13 in the journal Radiology.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on medical imaging.

SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, Feb. 13, 2018

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4 Comments

Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:32 PM

I have mad it my responsibility to find out what the effect the different scanning devices have on my body. I have taken a number of them, but I have never been informed what effect they have on my body or how they work, without me asking first. Doctors will order a CT scan without consulting the patient and if the patient is not informed, they cannot make a decision for or against. I have found that when I refuse to take a CT scan, nobody argues why I should, they just say OK, we can do something else. The Cancer Institute say that we should minimize radiation as it can cause cancer. However, a CT Scan can have up to the same strength as 2920days (8 years) of natural background  radiation compared to a chest x-ray of only 10 days, dental x-ray is equal to one day and x-ray of the extremities is only 3 hours comparatively. so a CT scan can be upwards to close to 300 times the strength of an x-ray. How many patients know that? More info available here:https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/pdf/safety-xray.pdf

Fri Feb 23, 2018 12:32 AM

thanks for the info oligodendroglioma patient ? survivor since 2012, proton, temodar.  jon beavers

Mon Feb 26, 2018 01:13 PM

I agree and appreciate this information. There should be a pamphlet or handout that explains exactly what the rads or greys are on each procedure.  I realize there is a gold standard of care at each hospital and doctors have to follow and promote that policy which isn't always the best for the particular patient or the most up to date.  I had stage 1, breast cancer - invasive ductile carcinoma last year and had a lumpectomy and radiation.  Then, later in the spring I had a total hysterectomy which impacted me more.  I would cry at the drop of the hat and felt miserable.  I am sure the 5 weeks of radiation contributed to that but it does put you in what is called surgical menopause.  My cancer was estrogen positive and progesterone positive so my doctor pushed hard for the anti-estrogen therapy where I would take a pill every day for 10 years and be monitiored every 3 months for bloodwork.  For some reason, I had to start coming in for bloodwork more often but they never said why.  I tried 3 different pills and felt horrible.  I also felt powerless to the cancer controlling my life.  I know that many women fell the opposite as they are beating the cancer by taking the pill.  But many times it returns anyway, and about 80% complain about their quality of life due to the side effects.  I opted out of taking the pill.  I did push and get the Oncotype test done on a sample of my tumor tissue.  This provides a completely different kind of information than the pathology report.  It came back 5% chance of recurrence if I was on taxmoxifin and after asking my doctor my relative risk vs my absolute risk, I found out my individual chance of recurrence was 10%.  I was able to live with that and get on with my life.  They don't want to do bloodwork on me anymore except once a year since I am not in compliance with their recommendations.  I wasn't told any of that ahead of time.  But it would not have changed my decison.  They also never explained during the radiation (I didn't learn this until later) that the healthy cells are killed first and then the cancer cells later.  I stopped treatment due to uterine bleeding and other side effects I was having that I belive were 100% related to the radiation.  I did 23 treatments and was suposed to do 30 with 5 more boost treatment to the tumor area.  I want to do proton therapy if this returns.  My oncologist did tell me that if my cancer returns, I will be stage 4 and then I will be treated with only hormone blocker therapy.  Interesting.  My last blood work was in December and my vitamin D level was 4 or below.  This was very concerning and one would think they would have had me come back in a month to check it again but they didn't.  I am now seeing a specialist for my thyroid and he is checking my vitatmin D.  I will be having an ultra sound.  I did learn (on my own) that if you have had breast cancer it increase your risk for thyroid cancer (a 1 in 6 chance).  Most thyroid nodules are benign but mine has grown and my T3 is 7 and my T4 is 2.  T4 is supposed to convert to T-3 and for some reason mine is not.  I have taken armour thyroid and went off it for 2 years due to insurance not covering anything but synthetic therapy which only measures T-4.  Well, sorry for the MORE THAN YOU WOULD EVER WANT TO KNOW (LOL) information.  This whole process has been very enlightening.  My husband had died of colon cancer stage IV a in 2012.  I was naive enough to think that would be my bout with cancer (my dad had died of gastric cancer in 2000- after only being sick 50 days).  Remember you will always be your own best advocate.  Go with your gut instinct.  When I ignore it, I am always so sorry!  Your body knows what is best!

Mon Feb 26, 2018 01:22 PM

Oh, and one more thing.  Take vitamin D and get it monitiored with blood work.  Because although they don't know why, low levels of vitamin D are found in cancer patients.  So, the premise is...if you can keep your vitamin D level up, you may deter cancer from growing.  We were told this at Wake Forest Cancer Center where my husband was treated with the experimental HIPEC therapy (heated chemo).  Google that and it will blow you away.  My breast mammogram came back normal in December.  I was very thankful.  Don't ever get anything but the Genius 3-D digital mammogram.  It rolls the breast so it doesn't have to be painful and it doesn't compress the breast near as much as traditional mammograms.  The 2-D kind still hurt.  I was amazed at the difference.  Where I live now only has this at the newest hospital in town and on the floor where my breast surgeon practices!  The other outdated mammogram machine is downstairs.  Oh, and my external beam radiation was a machine that was almost as big as the machine used to wash your car (LOL).  Very scary!  I could write a book on a couple of permanent side effects but won't.

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