A recent study in Pediatrics found that half of parents are aware of the potential increase in future cancer risk associated with pediatric CT scans.
Study examines parental understanding of potential CT risks
In a survey of over 700 parents whose children were treated in a pediatric emergency department with a head injury, 47% reported being aware of the potential increased lifetime cancer risk associated with head CT scans. After this risk was disclosed, parents' willingness to proceed with the test was reduced, presenting a significant barrier for a small minority. The findings were recently published online in Pediatrics.
At the start of the survey, 90% of parents said they would be "very willing" or "willing" to go ahead with a CT test if the doctor thought it was necessary. After being informed about potential cancer risks, the number dropped to 70% with 6% (42 parents) saying they would refuse the test. Among these 42 parents, eight had children for whom a CT scan was later recommended, and all of these children proceeded with the test.
"It's significant that all the kids whose parents said they would refuse a CT scan after hearing about cancer risk eventually ended up getting one if it was recommended," said Dushyant Sahani, MD, director of CT at Mass General Imaging. "When it's time to make a decision, parents still trust CT scans and understand that the short-term benefits outweigh a very small long-term risk."
The study also found that 90% of parents wanted to be informed of potential cancer risks before proceeding with imaging.
Read coverage of the study in Reuters Health.