How Do You Protect Your Body From Radiation During A CT Scan
Radiation sounds scary, but medical scans that use radiation are not scary at all – in fact, these scans actually help diagnose and treat hurt, rather than cause it. If your doctor has recommended a CT scan, trust that the benefit of getting the scan outweighs any of the negatives that come with it. CT (computed tomography) scans use radiation to capture images of the interior of your body and are useful for diagnosing illnesses and monitoring treatment.
The amount of radiation you are exposed to during a CT scan is very small: any amount of radiation exposure can increase your potential for developing cancer, but it’s important to remember that we are exposed to small amounts of environmental background radiation every day.
Environmental background radiation can come from trace radioactive particles in soil, water, or air, or could come from man-made radioactive chemicals. Your altitude and latitude can affect the amount of background radiation you are exposed to. Even things like your television, mobile phone, smoke detectors, gas heating, coal mining, and more. Like we talked about earlier, CT scans expose you to less radiation than the amount of background radiation you will be exposed to during your lifetime.
Some people have common misconceptions about CT radiation. Here are the facts:
- CT radiation will not make you lose your hair
- CT radiation does not stay on your clothes
- CT radiation will last for around 4 hours (but you are safe to be around other people afterward)
- You don’t need to worry about cleaning off radiation after your CT: it will dissipate into the atmosphere over the course of a few hours
- CT radiation cannot go through walls
- The chances of developing fatal cancer from CT radiation exposure is very small (0.05%)
- The maximum safe amount of radiation exposure is 1,000 mSv
- Everyone on earth will be exposed to 3 mSv of background radiation per year
Although the risk of developing cancer due to radiation from a CT scan is low, there are still ways you can protect yourself. Eating an antibiotic-rich diet before and after your CT scan can help increase your body’s ability to get rid of radiation. Vitamin E and vitamin C are also especially helpful when it comes to protecting your body.
How Do I Prepare For A CT Scan?
Preparing for a CT is simple. Your doctor will give you a recommendation for how long you should fast before your scan based on what part of your body is being imaged. Try to only do a diet of clear liquids on the day of your scan so your results are as clear and accurate as possible. Don’t wear any self-care products or cosmetics to your scan (deodorant, lotion, makeup, etc.), as they might mess with the clarity of your results. Try to arrive 10-15 minutes before your scheduled appointment to answer any questions or to talk to a radiology specialist.
Your CT scan will take around 30 minutes to complete. As we talked about earlier, we are exposed to background radiation daily. But how does that radiation compare to the amount of radiation you will be exposed to during a CT scan? For the most common CT scans, here are the results:
- Abdominal CT: 10 mSv (3 years of background radiation)
- Chest CT: 7 mSv (2 years of background radiation)
- Sinus CT: 2 mSv (8 months of background radiation)
What Happens After My CT Scan?
After your CT scan, you will be free to go. Your results will be sent to your doctor within 24 hours, and they will reach out to you to discuss scheduling a follow-up appointment. If your radiologist recognizes an abnormal or emergency result on your scans, they help you immediately. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids after your CT scan – you can even drink caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea. Drinking fluids not only replenish your body, but also helps flush out the contrast dye if you received a CT with contrast.
The contrast dye used with a CT is not harmful. If you get a CT scan with contrast, you will be exposed to slightly more radiation than a regular CT scan. You may have some side effects like itching or swelling at the injection site, or nausea after your scan. If any of these symptoms persist, talk to your doctor immediately.
South Jersey Radiology is committed to staying on the cutting edge of new technologies as soon as they become available. Our low dose CT scan protocol for lung cancer screening is the first of many imaging studies that uses less radiation, while still capturing high quality images.
When it comes to recommending a scan, it’s important to remember that your doctor wants what is best for you – their end goal is your health and safety. If you are concerned about the number of CT scans your doctor is recommending, make sure they know about your medical history and maybe get a second opinion. Ask if another scan (MRI, X-ray, etc.) could diagnose or monitor your illness rather than another CT scan.
Getting a medical scan is stressful. It’s normal to be nervous, but the best way to combat that anxiety is to ask questions. Talk to your doctor about your concerns, or better yet, talk to one of our radiology specialists at SJRA today. At South Jersey Radiology Associates, we offer high-quality scans with a personal, professional touch. Call us today to schedule an appointment at any of our following locations:
- Greentree Office – Marlton, NJ
- Haddonfield Office – Haddonfield, NJ
- Turnersville Office – Turnersville, NJ
- Voorhees Office – Voorhees Township, NJ
- Route 73 Office – Voorhees Township, NJ
- Washington Township Office – Sewell, NJ
- West Deptford Office – West Deptford, NJ
Learn more about the board-certified, sub-specialized radiologists who read and interpret studies at SJRA, here.