Radiation Dose: Compare the Amounts From Imaging Exams and Everyday Sources

Having a medical imaging exam that uses radiation, like an x-ray or CT scan, can be frightening. Some people are worried about the side effects from the radiation. But the radiation dose from most of these exams is small. Read below to learn more about how the radiation doses from these exams compares to the radiation we encounter everyday.

Many types of medical imaging exams use radiation to view the inside of your body. This includes x-rays, CT scans, PET scans and fluoroscopy.

Some people are concerned about the effects of radiation exposure from these imaging exams. But the radiation dose from most of these exams is very small. And remember: your doctor has determined that the benefit of doing a test outweighs the small risk from radiation.

Compare Radiation Doses from Imaging Exams and Everyday Life

The dose of radiation from an imaging exam is often similar to doses we experience in daily life. We are exposed to radiation simple by living on Earth. We receive higher doses of radiation from certain activities. Those include flying on an airplane, living in a clay or brick house, or even eating a banana.

That’s right—there is actually a small amount of radiation in every banana we eat! Each banana contains about .0001 µSv of radiation (µSv stands for microsieverts, a unit of radiation). So we can use bananas to compare the radiation doses for each type of medical imaging exam.

Use the chart below to compare the radiation you are exposed to from different activities. You can compare each activity to the number of bananas you would have to eat to be exposed to the same amount. It also shows the amount of time it would take to be exposed to that amount of radiation just by living on earth.

An infographic displaying radiation doses for common imaging exams and regular daily activities. It also includes the dose proven to increase the risk of cancer and a fatal radiation dose. These doses are measured in microsieverts, a unit of radiation, as well as the equivalant in bananas and in the amount of time spent on earth.

Note: these are typical radiation values for an average-sized adult. Actual doses from medical imaging can vary. Factors include the equipment as well as patient age, size, and other factors. Always ask your doctor or medical physicist for more information about your specific exam. Sources: RadiologyInfo.org; University of California.

Tips to Reduce Your Radiation Exposure

If you’re worried about the radiation dose from an imaging exam, there are steps you can take:

  • Keep track of your imaging and radiation history
  • Discus your radiation history with your doctor
  • Ask for a lower dose test
  • Ask for less frequent scans
  • Don’t seek out scans that aren’t necessary

Although radiation from imaging exams may seem risky, remember that we are exposed to background radiation all the time. This low-level background radiation is normal and safe. It does not necessarily increase our likelihood of cancer or other medical issues. Click here to learn more about the risks of radiation.

Radiation Safety at UVA Health

At UVA Health, our doctors make sure all medical imaging is necessary. Our radiologists are certified by the American Board of Radiology. They know which imaging exams are appropriate. They also understand the risks and benefits of each exam, and the exact medical information that needs to be obtained.

UVA Health has advanced and specialized imaging equipment. This newer and more sophisticated equipment uses less radiation. Additionally, our imaging technologists are trained to make sure that radiation doses are as low as possible. In fact, UVA Health has safety officers who make sure that patients are safe from radiation or any other effects of medical imaging.

With all these measures, you can feel safe knowing that you are getting the lowest possible radiation dose. You can learn more about UVA Radiology and UVA Health’s commitment to imaging safety by clicking here.

Talk to your care provider today about scheduling your imaging exam at UVA Radiology.

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