by Airman 1st Class Mariah Haddenham
36th Wing Public Affairs
7/24/2012 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Andersen's Radiology clinic uses imaging to diagnose and treat its patients with different techniques, from X-rays to magnetic resonance imaging.
Many patients fear that these scans will expose them to cancer-causing radiation. However, there is more than one type of scan, both routine, and each with different and minimal amounts of radiation.
"I would say that the most common misconception about X-rays is that if you get one, it will cause cancer. This is far from the truth," said Staff Sgt. Jahmal Nicholas, 36th Medical Support Squadron diagnostic imaging craftsman. "On average, getting your normal standard series of X-rays is like a day outside at the beach."
X-rays are commonly used for looking for breaks or fractures in bones, but depending on the injury, a computerized tomography scan can give a more accurate description and location of the injury.
"The difference between an X-ray and a CT scan is that an X-ray is two-dimensional and a CT scan is three-dimensional," said Sergeant Nicholas "The multi-dimensional image helps us to see things we might not see in a standard X-ray."
CT scans have 80 times more radiation than an X-ray, but this number is still small by comparison, and it is uncommon a patient would experience any adverse side effects.
"I've been doing X-rays for 12 years and I've never seen a problem," said Sergeant Nicholas. "If I had to name a side effect it would be radiation burn, which is comparable to sunburn. In my career have I seen a case of it."
A third type of scan used by radiologists is magnetic resonance imaging, which helps to visualize internal structures of the body in detail.
An MRI is an alternative method to a CT scan that uses magnets and radio waves to create the images.
"MRI's are a good alternative to patients who have any sort of surgical metal in their bodies or cannot risk any radiation at all," said Tech. Sgt. Shirley Velez-Nicholas, 36 MDSS diagnostic imaging craftsman. "However, MRI's can be very expensive and patients often feel claustrophobic during the procedure which may last up to 45 minutes per session."
A doctor will typically start with a standard X-ray, but will rely on a CT scan or an MRI depending on what he is looking to find.
Andersen's radiology department practices as low as reasonably achievable, shielding its patients with lead aprons, X-raying only the area the physician needs to see. Referred to as ALARA, it is the standard practice the radiology clinic uses to expose its patients to the least amount of radiation possible.
Whether it be an X-ray, CT scan, MRI, or another one of the services Andersen's Radiology clinic provides, such as ultrasounds and mammograms, patients can feel good in knowing that the clinic operates at highest standard of care and safety for the patient, leaving them with nothing to fear.