About six weeks ago, I tripped over a bolt jutting out of the floor of my garage and landed, head-first, on a spare car battery. It became clear within a few hours that I had a whopping concussion. In the impossibly bright lights of the emergency room, a friendly young resident told me she was considering whether or not to give me a CT scan.
“It’s just how tender your skull seems to be,” she said, puzzling it over. “I’m a little worried about whether you’ve fractured it, or whether there’s any bleeding in your brain.”
“What are the reasons for and against it?” my husband, ever the pragmatist, asked her.
“Well, if we did it and found out she has bleeding, we’d definitely keep her overnight, just to be able to check her regularly and get another scan in the morning.”
“So, why not do it?” I asked.
“Well, it’s a lot of radiation, is all…hang on a minute,” she mused, paging through my chart. “How old are you, again?”
“Forty-four, last week,” I told her.
She did what looked like some mental calculations in the air above her, then recommended that we do the CT scan. When pressed, she explained that the cancer risk comes about forty years after the exposure to radiation. By then, she calculated, I’d already be pretty old. It was a worthwhile risk, given the math. Continue Reading…by