There is a considerable gap between patient expectations and current practices for provision of information relating to radiation use in medical imaging tests, according to a special report published online in Radiology.

Raymond H. Thornton, M.D., from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and colleagues identified opportunities for improving patient-centered communication about diagnostic imaging tests that involve use of radiation in cancer care.

The authors examined patient knowledge, information sources, and communication preferences in six focus groups conducted during 2012.

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The researchers found that most participants reported that their health care providers did not initiate discussions about benefits and risks of radiation from imaging tests, although participants were aware of the long-term risk of cancer from exposure to ionizing radiation.

Most of the patients reported obtaining information via self-directed Internet searches. Participants conveyed gratitude for tests but expressed concern about having to initiate discussions and the desire to be informed about the rationale for ordering specific imaging examinations, intervals for follow-up testing, and alternatives to testing.

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Participants believed that such information should be readily available; conversations with their personal physicians or endorsed reference materials were considered ideal for information exchange.

The importance of understanding imaging radiation risks and active participation in decision making were emphasized by cancer survivors.

“A substantial gap exists between patient expectations and current practices for providing information about medical imaging tests that involve the use of radiation,” the authors write.


  1. Thornton, Raymond H., MD, et al. “Patient Perspectives and Preferences for Communication of Medical Imaging Risks in a Cancer Care Setting.” Radiology. DOI: [epub ahead of print]. 2015.