PET-CT scans use a combination of radioactive dye and X-ray radiation to create images, so you may be worried about the risks involved if your doctor wants to perform a scan.
Understanding The Radiation Risk
The tracer drug used during PET-CT scans contains a very small amount of radiation, so the risk to you is very small. This kind of radiation will disappear quickly and you can speed it up by drinking plenty of water after the scan.
You will also be exposed to some X-ray radiation during the scan. X-rays are a form of ionising radiation that can damage your cells and DNA, but the dose will be very carefully controlled and kept as small as possible. The amount of X-ray radiation you are exposed to will depend on how large an area needs to be scanned. You will usually be exposed to the same amount of radiation as you would encounter over a few months or years of your normal life. Background radiation is all around us, all the time, and this amount of exposure poses a very small risk. Even so, your doctor will only want to expose you to this risk if you really need the scan.
When You Shouldn’t Have a CT Scan
Although PET-CT scans are safe for most people, there are some reasons why you may need to take extra precautions. You should tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding as your baby will be more sensitive to radiation than you are. It may still be possible to have a PET-CT scan when you are pregnant if it is essential for your health, but the radiation dose many have to be reduced. If you are breastfeeding, you will need to wait for the tracer to leave your system before you can breastfeed your baby after the scan.