With a family history of stomach cancer and a personal history of stomach illnesses, Kristy MacLaughlin educates herself on medical trends, is well aware of her risks and takes preventative measures to stay as healthy as possible.
So when the 23-year old North Park resident recently experienced stomach illness symptoms and rushed to the ER at Swedish Covenant Hospital, she was apprehensive when doctors said she needed a CT scan to get a better idea of what was causing her symptoms.
She and her husband had followed recent news about CT scans and other diagnostic tests potentially increasing cancer risk due to high doses of radiation.
As news spreads about radiation risks, more and more Americans are considering how diagnostic medical tests could impact their health .
However, improvements in diagnostic technology, combined with clinicians who understand how to weigh the risks and benefits of using a CT scan, are helping to reduce the risk of radiation-related cancers and other complications, and put patients at ease.
This was the case for Kristy. Her doctors reviewed her symptoms and medical history, and explained that in her case, because the CT was the fastest way to diagnose the cause of her illness, the benefits of the test results would outweigh the risks.
“It was very reassuring to know that within a few hours they would have results, and I wouldn't have to come back into the hospital for anything,” Kristy said. “Also the prep for the scan felt like nothing at all.”
After the quick, painless test, Kristy said she felt much better.
“I like to know everything I can when it comes to my body, so researching what I had just gone through was a natural step for me,” Kristy said. “When we got home we looked up that particular CT machine online and saw it was a newer version with the lower radiation, which was nice to see.”
In her research, Kristy learned that Swedish Covenant Hospital is the first hospital in Chicago to offer patients the Siemens Flash CT, which delivers the fastest test with the lowest dose of radiation possible. This means that patients are exposed to 90 percent less radiation than most CT scanners, and three times less than the background radiation a person naturally absorbs in a year.
The low radiation of the machine is also particularly beneficial for women like Kristy, who are of childbearing age, as radiation to the ovaries may increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
“If I had to have at CT scan multiple times I’d definitely make sure I had a low-dose scanner to make sure I can have children in the future,” she said.