Thyroid protection and mammograms: why you should listen to people who are experts in their field
The head of our radiology department came by the emerg the other day and told me a very scary story. It turns out that a certain TV Doc had told women to wear thyroid protection when they had their mammograms done or else they could develop thyroid cancer because of the radiation from the mammogram. The department head was worried because not only were women avoiding their mammograms because of this fear but many women who were having their mammograms were now demanding to wear a thyroid protector. What this TV Doctor (who is neither a radiologist nor a cancer expert) obviously did not realize was that:
1) the amount of radiation scatter reaching the thyroid in a properly administered mammogram is incredibly small and the risk of it inducing thyroid cancer is much less than the risk of missing breast cancer through failing to do the mammogram in the appropriate patient; and,
2) by wearing a thyroid protector the resulting mammogram can miss areas of breast tissue thus negating the whole reason for the mammogram in the first place and leaving these women at risk for missing breast cancer early. Or, the mammogram requires extra energy or needs to be repeated, in both cases exposing the woman to an increased amount of radiation and thus increasing the risk to her.
The radiologist referred to a properly conducted research review on this topic. If ony said TV Doc had taken the time to do the same instead of unecessarily scaring millions of women and/or putting them in harm's way!