Dr Oz: Thyroid Guards During Mammograms & Dental X-Rays

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Dr Oz: Thyroid Guards During Mammograms & Dental X-Rays

By on April 14, 2011

Dr Oz: Thyroid Guard Controversy

Dr Oz spoke about Thyroid Cancer, the fastest growing cancer among women, last fall and advised everyone to ask for a Thyroid Guard then next time they get a Dental X-Ray or a Mammogram (click here to read the full recap of the show: Dr Oz Thyroid Cancer).  Doctors and Dentists were overwhelmed by the number of requests they received for Thyroid Guards from their patients.  One viewer even sent an e-mail to her friends and family members, and it went viral, spreading all across America.  Eventually, two powerful medical societies responded to what Doctor Oz said and called his show erroneous.  So who is right?  Should we be asking for Thyroid Guards?  And how can you protect your thyroid?  Here are thoughts from both sides of the Thyroid Guard Debate.

Dr Oz: Thyroid Guards & Mammograms

Dr Oz spoke to two ladies from his audience.  One of them said that she asked for a Thyroid Guard during her last Mammogram because she saw what Dr Oz said.  Dr Oz Thyroid GuardThey were happy to give her one, but she was upset (and rightfully so!) that they did not offer her one or even talk to her about the pros or cons before getting ready for the Mammogram.  The second lady was a dentist who told Doctor Oz that she went out an ordered a Thyroid Guard (which only costs $25) so that she can offer all of her patients to use one when they do Dental X-Rays.

Doctor Oz was joined by four doctors who disagreed with what he said: Dr Phil Evans, Dr Daniel Kopans, Dr Jocelyn Rapelya and Dr Ada Cooper.  Dr Oz asked what happened when people started to ask for Thyroid Guards?  Dr Jocelyn Rapelya said that she explained to the first few patients who asked for Thyroid Guards that the radiation was a very low dose in Mammography and that the risk or impact on the Thyroid Gland is even less since it is out of the way of the radiation that is focused on the breast tissue.  Dr Rapelya also explained that using a Thyroid Guard can compromise the resulting image, but if the patients still insisted, then she would take the image but warned them that they might have to re-do it.  After she received more and more requests for Thyroid Guards she started to ask people why they were asking for them, and when everyone mentioned Dr Oz, she decided to contact him with her opinions.

One powerful argument against Mammograms causing Thyroid Cancer is that the incidence of Thyroid Cancer has been going up since 1980, and nobody knows why, but it is going up in males just as much as it is going up in females.  Dr Oz clarified that he never said that Mammograms or Dental X-Rays are the only causes of Thyroid Cancer, but he does think its worth minimizing radiation in whatever ways we can.  Dr Daniel Kopans argued that it is important to recognize that neither Dental X-Rays nor mammograms are at an angle that directly hit the Thyroid.  The radiation is like a spotlight and focuses the x-ray on one specific area.  The only radiation that the Thyroid is exposed to is something called scatter radiation, and calculations have shown that the amount of radiation your thyroid is exposed to is equal to 30 minutes of background radiation, which is the radiation that we get every day just from existing.

Dr Oz: Do Thyroid Guards Ruin Mammograms?

Dr Oz asked Dr Kopans why everyone would not want to get the least amount of radiation exposure, no matter how small the amount of radiation might be.  After all, the x-ray technician protects herself by going in a separate room or standing behind a full body shield, so if there is only tiny amount of scatter, why do the technicians worry about it?  Dr Kopans agreed that nobody wants to be unnecessarily exposed to radiation, but again claimed that the Thyroid does not get any significant exposure.  Doctor Oz agreed that Mammograms give more exposure to your breast tissue and Dental X-Rays focus more on the teeth, but in both cases they do expose your thyroid to some amount of radiation.  Dr Oz believes that even if it is not much, it is still an amount that is worth minimizing.

Doctor Oz did a second segment where he probed deeper into the question of Thyroid Shields ruining Mammogram images.  Click here to read the full recap of that segment: Dr Oz: Thyroid Guards Compromise Mammogram Images? And definitely leave a comment below to share your thoughts and opinions on using Thyroid Guards for Dental X-Rays and Mammograms!

Dr Oz: Thyroid Guards & Dental X-Rays

Dr Ada Cooper told Dr Oz that in the dental field, she does recommend and encourage people to ask for Thyroid Guards because there is no concerns about it interfering with their images.  In fact, the ADA recommends using Protective Thyroid Collars whenever possible to reduce the levels of radiation received.  Even though these levels of radiation are low, it is better to make them even lower.  Most people in Dr Oz’s office said that they did not use a Thyroid Guard during their last Dental X-Ray but almost everyone agreed that they would ask the next time they go in to have them done.

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Comments to Dr Oz: Thyroid Guards During Mammograms & Dental X-Rays

  1. Thank you Dr. Kopans for trying to explain the actual matter at hand in mammograms, but I am sure it fell on deaf ears.

  2. Hello, I am a medical radiation technologist, not a technician. I want to know if you measured the scatter radiation at the thyroid during a mammographic exposure? By measuring the scatter radiation with a dosimeter, you would be able to compare the actual dose given from background radiation or during a flight. All of these things matter. Have you compared KV and MAS exposure amounts, because that changes the dose given too. The density of breasts matter too. Digitial mammography isn’t always lower dose compared to film either. Research is limited I know, but you have to do the research to prove what you’re saying. There was reaearch done at the hospital I work at with chest xrays and the use of lead sheilding. The dosimeter showed that the lead shielding provided no difference because the scattter doesn’t reach the gonads. As far as shielding goes for an expample, a hip xray, we all shield the one hip and take the xray of the other hip, but if the scatter is significant enough, the shielding will actually keep the radiation in the body. HAVE YOU TESTED ANY OF THIS?? PLEASE PROVE YOUR OPINION! I am truely curious to know that wearing a thyroid collar during a mammogram actually helps. If the scatter doesn’t reach, then why are you telling everyone to wear one? I would also like to comment on the technologist going behind the control panal while the exposure is taken. We do not leave the room. We are not having an xray. But we do take xrays all day, everyday. Why should we be in the room? We are not getting a medical procedure. When xrays are taken on a patient, you want the xrays to capture information of that body part. Xrays pass through and are absorbed by the body part. Any scatter that may dissperse from the patient is good because that means, it’s not staying in the patient. Why do I, as a technologist have to stand next to the patient to receive that scatter to my own body?

  3. fran cohen says:

    On 4-22-11 I went for a mammogram. The technician handed me a sheet stating that it is not necessary to use the collar. I will send you a copy of this form if you send me your address.
    Sincerely Fran Cohen

  4. If the collar is not necessary for a mammogram then why do they make them and what is
    their purpose?

  5. The thyroid collar is used to protect the technologist or anyone that has to be in the room with the patient being xrayed during the exposure. They protect us against secondary scatter. Sometimes patients can’t be left alone during the exposure and because as technologists we are exposed to xrays everyday, we need to protect ourselves.

  6. Melanie Jane says:

    Please Don’t be Scared to Save Your Boobies.

    It is clear that people who do not study the physics of medical radiation, “x-rays” (electromagnetic radiation), would be incoherent on what “x-rays” really do to tissue as its entering ones bodies. Part of a Certified Medical Radiological Technologist’s curriculum during training includes extensive learning and state required testing to understand the concept of physics pertaining to radiation, and how to take standard precautions on patients based on that research. I think it would be wise and commendable for all those who are concerned about the cancer risk to thyroids associated with common routine medical “x-ray” exams, like mammograms, to do ones own research and form ones own opinions based on their learning. Letting one other being make presumptions for others is not always trustworthy. When I state “other being” in that sentence, I mean a person who is not a professional on the subject at hand. I know everyone who honored Dr. Oz’s reasoning on this issue of cancer awareness would be in for a bit of surprise. Since advances in new research form everyday, Dr. Oz deserves to be venerated based on his other researched topics, and for his commitment to helping patients stay informed. I’m just saying, the Great and Powerful may not be able to solve all problems.

  7. Dr. Oz is right! Remember the unkind remarks, and the “experts” ridiculing him because he was saying that apple juice had too much arsenic in it? Well, he was right!! I will believe Dr. Oz any day over these other “experts”… I believe they hate to think someone like Dr. Oz is more skilled and competent than they.

  8. I asked how much radiation I receive when I get a mammogram, and thus far nobody has been able to tell me. I would like to add my opinion about mammograms…to me they are unsafe, and if there is a tumor present what does that horribly hard pressing on the breasts do? In my opinion, that is an injury. I am predicting that in the future we will see how dangerous mammograms really are. I know 3 people who had mammograms where the cancer was not detected. Also, I was scared unnecessarily which would be too long of an explanation here. I am sure some cancers have been detected, and for some maybe it’s a good thing. However, for myself, I do not plan on ever having another one.

  9. Alleen, you are on here discussing things that you obviously know nothing about. The death rate from breast cancer has gone down SIGNIFICANTLY since mammography has been used as a regular screening tool. The reason no one can give you an answer about how much radiation you get from a mammogram is because it differs for everyone based on breast size, type of tissue, etc. Our radiation physicist has explained that The amount of radiation is equivilant to a flight from New York to L.A. And yes, you may very well know 3 people whose cancer was located in dense tissue and not found on the mammogram, HOWEVER, that doesn’t discount the MANY breast cancers that ARE found on mammograms. I have been a mammographer for 13 years and have seen many such patients. If you don’t choose to have a mammogrm, then don’t. But your OPINION is just that, an opinion. And not an educated one at that. And for your information, pressing on a tumor will not do anything to it, except allow the radiologist to see it better. I’m not sure why you put the word experts in quotations. They are experts and CERTAINLY more experienced in the field of radiology than Dr. Oz. Dr. Oz is a cardio thoracic surgeon. That is HIS specialty.

  10. Mandi,

    Why are you getting so upset because I gave my opinion? I have asked how much radiation one is exposed to during a mammogram, and nobody in the medical field has been able to tell me. There is no such thing as a safe amount of radiation. I notice that there are new types of mammograms being advertised which are “less invasive”, so that means something. I have a feeling that at a later date there will be more information about how unsafe mammograms that are used today were. How much radiation is there from a flight from New York to L.A.?
    I recall that Dr. Oz was the one who said there was too much arsenic in apple juic, and was ridiculed for that…then doctors apologized to him, because he was right. As for as specialists, I have been to specialitst that were total quacks, and a family physician who did a better job. I have also been to excellent specialists.

    Please don’t shout!

    You go ahead and get your mammograms as often as you like, and don’t tell me that I am writing about something that I know nothing about. That is rude!

  11. The word “juic” was a typo, I know it’s juice…just didn’t want to be admonished for that too.

  12. Here is what happened at my last mammogram. The technician said, “Oh, your left breast was in front of your right breast, so I will have to do that over.” I reluctantly agreed. THEN she said, “I need to do this over”, and I said, “No, I have had enough!” Each time I have had a mammogram, and with different technologists, my breasts feel as if they have been punched by a boxer!

    Everyone has the right to refuse tests, and this is one I refuse. If others find the mammograms helpful, by all means, continue to have them, and best of luck. This is my opinion, and I am not asking people to agree with me.

  13. Natasha says:

    Alleen, I’m sorry to hear that your experiences with having a mammogram have been so traumatic. I can assure you that not all those in the job are as rough as you have encountered. Yes, there is a necessary amount of pressure needed for the mammogram to be clear, but a little care and patience goes a long way. As is your right, you do not have to undergo a mammogram if you do not wish to.

    However, I can say that mammograms are our best method for detecting breast cancer. There is a 10% chance of missing a cancer however, which is why your friends may have had their cancers missed. Like all imaging technologies, mammograms are not fool-proof. Also, there are such things as interval cancers, where the breast cancer has started growing after the last mammogram, and is not picked up again until the next mammogram, or when the patient feels a lump or other symptom.

    As to your request to the average dose for a mammogram, it is true that every mammgram produces a different dose to the breasts. I can provide very rough figures on the average dose to the breast. The dose can range from 0.5-11 mGy, with the majority of women with 50% dense breast tissue falling into the 1.5-2 mGy for a single image. Again, some women will be considerably less than this, and some may have a higher dose. On average, the dose for a full examination of 4 images can be 6-8 mGy. To put this into perspective, a typical chest x-ray is about 0.25 mGy for one image alone, and a head CT can be 60 mGy! The typical radiation dose a regular person receives per year is a 360 mrems (or to put it into the same units as such, 3.6 mGy, even though they measure different things). For a serious chance of radiation induced cancer to occur, a dose of 2-6 Gy would have to occur. That is an enormous radiation dose, which could only occur in the event of a serious nucleur reactor meltdown.

    Do keep in mind that all radiation exposure has the rare chance of causing cancer, but in the case of a mammogram, it’s about 1 in 100 000. You’d probably get cancer from smoking a packet of cigarettes first.

    Also, the advent of digital mammograhy also reduces these doses considerably. Just today, I noticed an average of giving about 0.9 mGy per image to the majority of women I x-rayed. Digital is in place in most practices now, and it has really changed how accurate and safer it is to have a mammogram.

    And finally, if you still don’t want to have a mammogram, please consider having some alternative imaging technique, such as an Ultrasound or MRI. All I can say is that it could save your life. You do not want advanced breast cancer. My mother died of it, and it is not a nice disease.

  14. Melanie says:

    Well said, Natasha and Mandi. I am in the imaging field as well and am training as a mammographer as we speak. I have researched and concur with both of your comments.I feel bad for those who don’t trust the experts.

  15. Natasha says:

    Thanks Melanie. I agree, there’s a reason why they’re called experts :) Whilst Dr Oz is definitely very experienced in Cardio-Thoracic surgery, and a very good doctor, he is not a Medical Physicist or Radiologist.

    Good luck with your mammography training Melanie :)

  16. Collar or no collar, don’t forget to take some turmeric + black pepper to help protect you from the radiation.

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