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Radiology/Were my head CT scans dangerous


This has been constantly on my mind since the articles came out in 2009/2010 that revealed the dangers of CT scans and their cancer risk.

I had a head CT scan in 2005 at the age of 31, another head CT scan in 2009 at the age of 35 and a ConeBeam heat CT scan in 2012 at the age of 38.

I can't help but think the radiation in these scans has done some irreparable damage to myself and have significantly increased my chances of getting cancer later in life, probably some kind of brain cancer.

Could someone please help me put my mind at rest. I really want to put this behind me and stop worrying about this.

I'm normally a fairly rational person, but this has really brought out the neurotic side of me. Any help would be much appreciated.

Hello, Jamie.

It's true that the effects of ionizing radiation are cumulative. Cellular damage done by x-rays is permanent. However, the chances of your developing cancer from 3 CT exams is very low.

The radiation dose that a patient receives from a CT scan of the brain without contrast is equivalent to about 8 months of exposure to normal background radiation. The chances of developing a fatal cancer from this exam is very low.

Here's a great site about radiation safety: Don't miss the video series on Radiation Exposure in CT Exams on that page.

It's always a good practice to minimize your exposure to ionizing radiation whenever possible. In medical imaging, the benefits of having an image should outweigh the risks of exposure. Next time an x-ray is ordered, ask your doctor whether the results of the exam will determine the treatment of the injury. If treatment would be the same whether there is an x-ray or not, minimize your exposure & decline to have the x-ray.

I hope I've been able to allay your fears about developing cancer from these few CT exams. Though possible, it is highly unlikely.

Hope this helps,
Delia White
Santa Barbara Extremity MRI


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Delia White


I am not qualified to interpret diagnostic imaging or to diagnose disease. Please consult a physician for that information. I am the photographer. I can tell you what to expect during most MRI, CT and X-ray procedures.


I now have more than 30 years experience in diagnostic imaging. My specialty is MRI. I am also very familiar with CT and the way we used to take x-rays (everything's digital now)!

I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Radiologic Technology.

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