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CLL and general exposure to X-rays

CLL and general exposure to X-rays

In June I'm due to have a CT scan (pneumonia recovery) which involves the mildly radioactive injection to highlight the blood system, which I also had for a heart issue last year.

Over the last 2 years I've had a lot of X-rays (5 for broken bones in 2014, 3 for teeth in 2015, heart trace in 2015, chest x-rays in 2016).

Since the injections are stated as being equivalent to around 4 years' exposure to background radiation (so that's 8 years with the previous scan), with all my previous x-rays I'm wondering if I need to be cautious?

4 Replies

All radiation exposure is a risk/benefit. WWW has written a series of posts about this from a patient's perspective... and offers a few suggestions and questions to ask to get the lowest possible radiation CTscan dose...

There should be in the pinned posts on the right, or they are available from the CLL Society Website...

1 like

Thanks - I'll read through these and can then make an informed decision. I don't think I'd be too bothered except for the heart trace last year.


Hi Deveritt,

With any medical procedure, it's a case of weighing up the risk vs the reward. You've had a considerable number of X-rays in the last 2 years and are right to be concerned about the risk of this ionising radiation exposure causing DNA damage and therefore increasing your chances of secondary cancers, when you already have a higher risk of these due to CLL. This site gives some guidance to the equivalent background radiation per scan and should help you better determine your degree of risk:

As you can see, a dental X-ray is equivalent to 1 day of background exposure - so hardly worth worrying about. Even a chest X-Ray isn't too bad at 10 days equivalent exposure. You've presumably been recommended for a (CT)-Chest (2 years background equivalent) along with that from the contrast injections, I guess from a Coronary Computed Tomography Angiography (4 years background equivalent)?

Have a read through the above reference and if you remain concerned, explain to your doctor that you've had a lot of X-ray exposure lately and are concerned at your higher risk of secondary cancers due to your CLL. Then ask what your risks are if you refuse the scans or if you opt for say a chest X-ray.

Bear in mind:

1) that background radiation depends on where you live too - it varies with the rock type and altitude for example, and if you fly a great deal, that also needs to be factored in

2) worrying about another 4 or so years of background equivalent radiation may pale into insignificance if your scans have a good chance of detecting something needing attention that if not dealt with, greatly reduces your chances of living an extra 4 years...

Great photo - love it!


PS Here's the posts Chris referenced by WWW:


Thanks - useful advice as always. Yes, it was a Coronary Computed Tomography Angiography with a contrast injection. I'll calculate the dose, book into my GP and talk with both the pneumonia and CLL advisors.

The photo? It didn't actually rain in the end, but the clouds were dramatic, we got lost, were cautioned by a farm worker and then sent back on the right path!


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