The week of Nov. 4-10 is National Radiologic Technology Week. This annual celebration, which recognizes the vital work of Radiological Technicians across the nation, takes place each November to commemorate the anniversary of the discovery of the X-ray by Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen on Nov. 8, 1895. This week also calls attention to the important role of medical imaging and radiation therapy professionals in patient care and health care safety.
What is radiation? Radiation is best described as energy moving through space, and it can take many forms, including visible light, X-rays, gamma-rays, microwaves, and radio waves. Radiologists use low-dose radiation in the form of X-rays to create images of different parts of the body. High doses of radiation can also be used to treat certain types of cancer.
Where does radiation come from? Radiation is all around us. The two main sources of ionizing radiation are from natural background radiation and medical exposure (computed tomography scans and X-rays). Natural background radiation comes from the Sun (cosmic radiation), the Earth (mostly Radon gas), and from naturally radioactive substances in our body. Natural background radiation exposure accounts for an average of 3.1 mSv/yr with variations depending on where you live. The average radiation exposure to individuals in the U.S. is 6.2 mSv/yr, which includes natural background and medical imaging.
What are X-rays? X-rays are a type of radiation used in medical imaging much like a camera uses visible light to create an image. X-rays pass through the body and create an image on film based on how many X-rays get absorbed and how many pass through. These films are commonly referred to as "X-rays," but X-rays are actually the type of radiation that is used to produce the image. Studies that use X-rays include plain films, fluoroscopy, and CT scans.
Understanding Risk: It is important to realize that in a properly performed individual exam, the potential health benefits usually outweigh the potential risks of radiation exposure. Great effort has been made throughout the medical community to ensure patient safety while providing quality diagnostic images. However, there is data to suggest that high doses of radiation increase your future risk of cancer. The data is compiled from high-dose exposures including survivors of atomic bombs and radiation spills. There is no proof that the low doses of radiation used with common X-rays or CT scans cause cancer, but we know enough to use this technology carefully and only when needed.
Barquist Army Health Clinic and the Radiology staff is celebrating this week with informational posters, fact sheets, and handouts in the clinic lobby to help educate and enlighten visitors on the role of the Radiological Technicians in patient care and patient safety.