A statement was recently released by the American Associating of Physicists in Medicine regarding how extremely low the risk of harm from radiation in diagnostic imaging studies is. Indeed, they state, it may be non-existent. I am absolutely delighted to finally see a statement like this in print, especially coming from the AAPM, a reputable and dignified organization.
In fact, this kind of statement has been needed for some time:
“Discussion of risks related to radiation dose from medical imaging procedures should be accompanied by acknowledgement of the benefits of the procedures.”
This sentence urges all providers, and even investigative news reporters, to do the responsible thing – discuss risks and benefits at the same time, in a balanced way, using language and concepts that patients can understand and grasp. Understanding extremely small risks (so small as to be potentially nonexistent) is very challenging for most of us – so it requires extra time and effort.
“Risks of medical imaging at patient doses below 50 mSv for single procedures or 100 mSv for multiple procedures over short time periods are too low to be detectable and may be nonexistent.”
Someone finally stood up and said it! The non-detectability of extremely low risk has stood the test of time. The non-existent risk possibility may be true and should be included in any discussion.
“Predictions of hypothetical cancer incidence and deaths in patient populations exposed to such low doses are highly speculative and should be discouraged. These predictions are harmful because they lead to sensationalistic articles.”
It is definitely possible that sensationalism may have resulted in patient harm – by inappropriately scaring some patients away from imaging. These medical imaging treatments might have helped them, whereas not getting the imaging might have harmed them by denying access to the diagnoses leading to correct and swift treatment.
In black and white: predicted cancer risk from these low doses is hypothetical and resultant deaths are only speculation.