For most women, routine x-rays such as mammograms or dental x-rays carry very little risk. However, many experts are concerned about an increase in the use of tests with higher doses of radiation, such as computed tomography (CT) and nuclear imaging. Patients want to know if radiation from these tests will increase their risk of developing cancer. When your doctor orders an X-ray or CT scan, you may be more focused on the results than the amount of radiation you'll be exposed to.
But if you need to have multiple tests, you may wonder if you're being exposed to too much radiation and how it could affect you. The concern is that exposure to radiation could raise the risk of developing cancer in the future. Ionizing radiation from tests such as x-rays or CT scans has the potential to damage body tissues, including cellular DNA. But x-rays are sometimes taken when they aren't medically necessary, and even when there's a good reason for an X-ray, if proper precautions aren't taken, the patient may receive more radiation than necessary.
X-rays can do both harm and good. X-rays may slightly increase the chance of developing cancer in the future. And if the sexual organs are in or near the X-ray beam, changes could occur in the reproductive cells that could be transmitted and cause harm to future children and grandchildren. However, because the amount of radiation used in X-ray exams is small, the chance that X-rays will cause these problems is very low.
If you need to have multiple X-rays, it's important to keep track of them. When an X-ray is taken, make sure to write down on a card the date, type of exam, and where the X-ray will be stored. That way, if another doctor suggests an X-ray of the same part of your body, you can tell them about any previous X-rays.