Answer to Question #12247 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"
Category: Pregnancy and Radiation
The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:
I am 28 years old and I had an abdominal computed tomography (CT) scan two months after a caesarean delivery (C-section). Am I in greater danger of cancer because the CT was done soon after my pregnancy and while breast-feeding? Was my immune system strong enough to repair cell damages?
I can understand your concern, but you have nothing to worry about. The amount of radiation from the CT scan is relatively small. You are not in greater danger because the CT was done soon after your pregnancy. In fact, it is much better than doing it during pregnancy as the fetus would have been exposed. I don't believe your immune system is compromised during breast-feeding, and this amount of radiation does not cause cell damage that is unrepairable.
The effective dose from one abdominal CT is about 4 millisieverts (mSv). To put this in perspective and to give you an idea about how much radiation this is, I will make a comparison with an everyday situation. Everyone receives a small amount of unavoidable radiation each year. Some of this radiation comes from space and some from naturally occurring radioactive forms of water and minerals. This one CT gives your body the equivalent of about one extra year's worth of natural radiation.
The Health Physics Society has a position paper called "Radiation Risk in Perspective" in which we say, "[B]elow levels of about 100 mSv above background from all sources combined, the observed radiation effects in people are not statistically different from zero." In other words, the risk, if it even exists, is too small to be seen.
Ninni S. Jacob, MS, CHP