Breast cancer researchers have increasingly been looking into the possible role of environmental factors – like pesticides, beauty products, household chemicals and plastics used to make water bottles – in boosting women’s risk for the disease. But a review of all available scientific data by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) last December failed to find enough data to confirm or rule out links to these factors.
“The single thing that the IOM highlighted that a woman can do to lower her risk of breast cancer is to avoid unnecessary medical imaging,” says radiology and medical imaging professor Rebecca Smith-Bindman, M.D. The UC San Francisco researcher contributed to the report, and authored an article in the June 11 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine detailing its findings. She suggests women whose doctors have suggested they undergo CT scans or other forms of medical imaging ask the following questions:
• Is this scan absolutely necessary or can we make decisions about my care without it?
• Is it necessary to do it now?
• Are there other, alternative tests?
• How can I be sure the test will be done in the safest way possible?
• Will having the scan information change the management of my disease in a positive way that cannot happen without the scan?
• Can I wait until after seeing a specialist before getting the scan?
Doctors should also explain the risks and benefits, and the radiation burden, from any test they have ordered, Smith-Bindman says.