Medical radiation is a discipline in healthcare or medicine that is growing very fast. It has continually accepted the improvement in technology, digital imaging and instrumentation. Because of the increased improvements in technology, medical radiation has become one of the most advanced and dynamic areas of clinical medicine today (National Research Council, 2000). Even though there has been an increase in complaints of the harm that radiation has on human bodies, medical radiation of the right dosage is beneficial to human beings. As long as radiation is not abused then it can be of great benefits to human beings. Patients are usually constantly exposed to radiation rays. This occurrence is, however, the most popular with cancer patients who have to undergo the radiation process as part of their treatment. There has been an increase in the use of medical radiation in many medical centres even though there have also been improvements in technology.
The increase in medical radiation doses is because of the many health benefits that radiation has on patients such as cancer ones. Patients are constantly exposed to radiation rays from diagnostic examinations even though the level or rate of exposure is generally low (National Research Council, 2000). The medical radiation doses have therefore increased because of the justified benefits of accurate diagnosis of the disease at hand. There has not been any valid and solid proof of radiation causing any harm especially at the low levels of exposure under which the diagnostic radiological examinations are carried out. According to Oxtoby (2007) there have been only theoretical evidence and no practical evidence of the harm caused by medical radiation. Even the theoretical evidence shows low cancer risks because of the low levels of radiation rays that are used during the examinations and diagnoses in medical radiation. Medical radiations have low risk levels as compared to the natural radiation. The radiation doses given to patients should be regulated to ensure that they are not exposed to a lot of radiation rays which might be harmful to them. It is, however, very difficult to determine the right dosage for medical radiation. The dosage for medical radiation also varies between different cases of different patients. The dosage will also change depending on different variables that will have an effect on the whole radiation process, for example, the settings of the machine that is used to produce the radiation rays (Oxtoby, 2007). If the machine is set to produce more rays then the risks of exposure and harm from radiation rays will be more as compared to when the machine is set to release or produce little rays.
Doses in Medical Radiation
The radiation doses given to normal individuals or patients are different to that given to pregnant women. In medical radiation, high doses are given so that the cancer tissues can be destroyed. According to Powrie (2010) it is usually very tricky and challenging to give a dosage that is enough to destroy the cancer cells but at the same time not too much to have a negative effect on the patient or to be harmful to the patient. Special care is usually given to women who are pregnant. This is because of the sensitivity of the embryo to radiation. It is, therefore, advised that if there is a possibility of another option rather than radiation to be used on pregnant women then the other option should be fully utilized. If radiation dosage is necessary for the pregnant woman then precautions should be taken to ensure that the embryo is not affected or that the dosage is as little as possible to reduce the risks of exposure (Powrie, 2010). For patients who have a child bearing history or the women who have had children before, a pregnancy test should be administered to them before they undergo any medical radiation process or examination. The dosage is usually regulated in different ways, for example, some techniques are usually used to focus the radiation dose only in the areas where the radiation rays are intended to reach while, on the other hand, administering lower doses to the normal tissues that are not affected. The radiation rays that are placed in direct contact with the tissues should be in very small quantities so as to avoid any harm that may be caused on the other healthy tissues that are around the cancer tissues.
Risks of Medical Radiation Exposure
There has been a constant debate on whether exposure to radiation rays is harmful or beneficial to human beings. The fact is that radiation can cause harm even though not practically proven and it also has its benefits. Every amount of radiation has an element of risk in it and, therefore, the greater the amount the greater the risk. The risks of harm from radiation as earlier mentioned depend on different factors such as the size of the dosage and the rate at which the dosage is administered. Other factors include the type of radiation ray that has been administered or prescribed and the age and health of the individual that is getting the dosage. Small doses of radiation usually increase the risk of getting cancer. Warrell (2003) explains that these risks are, however, small as compared to the risks posed from other factors different from radiation such as flying in airplane or driving a car. The risks of getting cancer from exposure to radiation rays is very small when the individual is exposed to other harmful factors such as smoking and alcohol which might also lead to the patient getting cancer. Many people, however, usually misperceived the risks of getting cancer from radiation exposure. This is because of the negativity that has been there towards the use of radiation for medical purposes.
National Research Council (2000) believes that the effects of radiation on patients of human beings are divided into two categories, namely, stochastic and non-stochastic effects. The stochastic effects will be there even at low dosage of radiation because they do not have a threshold in which they occur. The non-stochastic effects occur only when the dosage exceeds a certain threshold for example if the radiation dosage is higher than normal. These effects are, however, not as severe as the stochastic effects. The risk of harm from radiation rays is different in different parts of the body. This is because different parts of the body have different levels of sensitivity towards the radiation rays. For example, radiation rays administered on the hand will have a different effect than the radiation dose administered on the reproductive areas. The effects in the reproductive area will be bigger because the reproductive area is more radiosensitive than the hand and, therefore, will be more and easily affected by the radiation dosage (Warrell, 2003).
Managing Risks of Exposure to Radiation
Radiation rays should be applied to only affected areas. This will help in reducing the risk of harm to other areas which are not affected. There should, therefore, be valid reasons why radiation dosages should be administered to a patient. For example, the patient has to be confirmed to be having cancer tissues before administering the radiation dose. A mere speculation is not enough reason and this may increase the risks of exposure. A justification is, therefore, needed for a radiation dose to be administered. The radiation dose should also be administered to the affected areas only by using the most dose effective settings on the machine administering the dose. This will ensure that very low levels of radiations are administered. Risks of exposure can also be reduced through consultations between patients and physicians before any dosage of radiation is administered
Reasons for Increased Use of Medical Radiation
There has been an increase in the use of medical radiation despite the constant developments in the technological fields that can be used instead of the radiation process. The growth has been caused by the increased usage of medical radiation or the increased use of radiation in medical services. The most well-known use of radiation for medical services is x-rays. X-rays are usually used to determine whether bones are broken. Yarbro (2011) further explains that other branches of radiology used for medical purposes are the mammography, computerized tomography which is popularly known as the CT scan and nuclear medicine. Cardiology is also another field of medicine where radiation is used. Radiation is also used for treatment of diseases such as cancer.
The increased use of radiation technology in medical field has been because of the various benefits that radiation has on the field of medicine. X-ray is the field of medicine that uses radiation the most in detecting whether bones are broken or not. Despite the developments of new ways of detecting and treating broken limbs, the use of radiation rays is very important and almost mandatory in the confirmation that the limb is actually broken (Yarbro, 2011). Other technologies and methods might be important in speculating but it is the radiation rays that will confirm whether the limb is broken or not. There has also been an increase in the use of radiation despite the development of other methods and modern technologies because of the ability to control the risk of exposure of patients or healthy tissues to radiation rays. There are several ways in which the risk of exposure can be reduced when radiation is being used. The dosage of radiation is usually monitored and controlled through the settings of the machine that is administering the radiation rays. This usually helps in reducing the levels or radiation rays that are administered to the affected areas and this will reduce the effects of the radiation rays on the healthy tissues that are surrounding the healthy tissues. Medical radiation will, therefore, be used more frequently even though there are new technologies that have been developed. This is because of its accuracy and its effectiveness in its treatments.