Was I right not letting my doctor perform another CAT scan on me?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 01, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My doctor ordered a CAT scan to check for lung damage (I'd been coughing for many weeks.) He saw a dark spot. He wanted me to do another CAT scan a month later, to check for change. I refused, on the basis that I've heard that a CAT scan radiates as much as 300 times the power of a chest X-ray. He settled for a chest X-ray instead, which showed no change. Were my fears justified?

Expert Answers

Andrew Putnam, M.D. is a Palliative Care physician at Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University.

In the situation you describe, I believe that the importance of an accurate picture of possible change outweighs the risk of the CT Scan. Yes the radiation exposure of a Ct Scan is much greater than that of an x-ray but the risks are still very small. Knowing as early as possible if there is growth in the mass is crucial. So I think that the very small increased cancer risk by a Ct Scan is outweighed by the need for knowledge of the mass.