Patients not the only ones at risk: Radiation also poses risk to doctors

American Medical News recently reported that some hospitals are changing the way they monitor patient health. In addition to placing vitals within the patient's records, some groups are including the patient's exposure to radiation from certain imaging procedures, like angiography and computed tomography (CT) scans.

The push for change is supported by findings that radiation intensive tests can increase a patient's risk for developing cancer. One study, published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (now referred to as JAMA Pediatrics), found that of the estimated four million CT scans performed on children every year, there may be a connection to future cancer development in almost 5,000 of these pediatric patients. These findings, paired with the increase in studies using radiation, support the push for a new system that tracks the amount of radiation each patient receives.

Although this report is useful and opens the discourse about increasing patient safety, experts in the profession should also be aware of the danger radiologists and other healthcare practitioners who administer these tests face.

Doctors and technicians also at an increased risk of cancer

The journal Radiology, a monthly publication by the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), previously reported that radiologists and radiologic technologists who administer tests using radiation are at an increased risk of cancer. The findings were particularly concerning for radiologists that began practicing before 1950. During that time, high amounts of radiation were used for the testing and proper precautions were not always taken. As a result, physicians within this group are at an increased risk of developing leukemia, breast cancer and skin cancer.

Although the study did not find a notable increase in the risk of cancer for those who currently practice in radiological professions, researchers were careful to point out that these workers are still early in their careers. After a few decades it may become apparent that these professionals were also at an increased risk.

Are legal remedies available to medical professionals who develop cancer due to exposure on the job?

Generally, employees who are injured while working are entitled to compensation to help cover a variety of costs including medical treatment, rehabilitation and lost wages. Physicians and technologists who find themselves fighting cancer likely caused by radiation exposure during their careers may be in a situation analogous to those who fight lung cancer due to on the job exposure to asbestos.

Those who find themselves in this situation should contact an experienced heath care law attorney to discuss their legal options.