June 15, 2016
2 min read

Understanding patient fears of medical imaging radiation could help PCPs

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PCPs should address gaps in patient knowledge regarding medical imaging radiation and seek to better understand the public worry regarding the treatment’s risks, according to data published in the Journal of Primary Care and Community Health.

In addition, the researchers concluded that there are many opportunities for medical imaging experts, including radiologists and medical physics professionals, to better communicate with the news media about the actual risks related to medical imaging radiation (MIR).

“There is substantial uncertainty concerning the actual risks associated with medical imaging radiation (MIR),” Jennifer L. Hay, PhD, of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, in New York City, and colleagues wrote. “In this context, the mass media has devoted increasing coverage to patient safety in the context of tests that use MIR… While the media focus on MIR has been predominantly negative, it is not clear how this dialogue has affected the general population. Patients’ concerns about the health risks of MIR could increase patient anxiety and impede quality of life, and could impede imaging adherence, given that high cancer worries are related to general distress and can lead to avoidance of imaging, such as cancer screening.”

To examine the prevalence of fear regarding the risks associated with MIR in the United States, the researchers conducted a cross-sectional study using the 2012 to 2013 Health Information National Trends Survey, conducted by the National Cancer Institute, with a nationally representative sample of 3,532 individuals aged 18 years and older.

Participants were asked about their level of worry regarding MIR and potential covariates, including demographic, medical and psychological factors, health information–seeking, physician trust and cancer fatalism.

According to the researchers, 65% reported experiencing at least some worry regarding MIR. In addition, univariable and multivariable logistic regressions indicate higher rates of worry among women, racial/ethnic minorities, those with lower education, foreign-born Americans, those who self-report poorer health, and individuals with a personal history of cancer. Lower trust in cancer information provided by physicians and paying greater attention to cancer information in popular media were both associated with higher rates of worry about the risks of MIR.

“Worry about MIR is relatively high in the U.S. population, and highest in the underserved, those with health challenges, those who are less trusting of cancer information from their physicians and those more attentive to cancer topics in the media,” Hay and colleagues wrote. “Public perspectives regarding the risks and benefits of imaging tests that deliver ionizing radiation can help shape the dialogue regarding shared decision making about recommended tests, ultimately enhancing patient engagement, and shared decision making, regarding medical imaging among referring physicians and their patients.” – by Jason Laday

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.