Could Your Heart Test Give You Cancer? Uncover the Test Doctors Might Not Need to Do

If you’re trying to get to the bottom of your heart issues, a cardiac stress test is a common recommendation from medical professionals. However, recent studies have shown that one particular type of stress test may actually cause cancer in a significant number of patients.

The Dangerous Test: Cardiac Stress Test with Radioactive Imaging

Cardiac stress tests are used to evaluate the heart and blood vessels during physical activity, helping doctors determine the effectiveness of your heart’s function and identify any potential blockages in your arteries. These tests usually involve running or walking on a treadmill while connected to monitors measuring your heart activity.

However, in some cases, doctors may perform a cardiac stress test with radioactive imaging. This type of test involves the injection of a radioactive substance into your bloodstream, allowing machines to create images of your heart and arteries. Although the radioactive substance allows for improved imaging, it comes with a startling downside: an increased risk of developing cancer.

The Shocking Results from an NYU Study

According to a study conducted by New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center, the use of radioactive imaging in cardiac stress tests has grown steadily since the 1990s, reaching an astounding 87% of total stress tests performed. While proponents of radioactive imaging argue it is necessary for improved accuracy, the researchers at NYU suggest otherwise.

In fact, the study indicates that over one-third of the million cardiac stress tests performed annually using radioactive imaging are unnecessary. These unnecessary tests not only result in a waste of over $500 million in annual healthcare costs, but also are causing an estimated 500 new cases of cancer each year. While this number may not seem large, every unnecessary case of cancer is one too many.

First, Do No Harm

The researchers on the NYU study argue that radioactive imaging tests do have value in the medical field. Nevertheless, they stress that these tests are being overused for reasons unrelated to clinical need. Ultimately, this overuse is causing unnecessary harm to patients and contributing to the ballooning healthcare costs in the United States.

Joseph Ladapo, one of the researchers, explains: “We estimate that about 500 people get cancer each year in the U.S. from radiation received during a cardiac stress test when, in fact, they most probably didn’t need any radiological imaging in the first place. While this number might seem relatively small, we must remember that ‘first, do no harm’ is one of the guiding principles in medicine.”

What You Can Do

If you’re recommended to undergo a cardiac stress test with radioactive imaging, it’s important to have a thorough discussion with your doctor about the necessity of the test. Ask about alternative, non-radioactive options for monitoring your heart health, and ensure that any tests performed are absolutely essential for your diagnosis. This way, you can avoid becoming one of the thousands of patients each year needlessly subjected to potentially harmful radiation.

In Conclusion

Cardiac stress tests with radioactive imaging may provide improved imaging of your heart and arteries, but they come with a hefty price tag: higher healthcare costs and an increased risk of cancer. As a patient, make sure to discuss all options and possible alternatives with your doctor to ensure that any tests you undergo are essential for your health and well-being. After all, “first, do no harm” should always be a guiding principle in healthcare.