Stories about: Department of Radiology

Oxford rower battling bone cysts is ready to make history

Shelley Pearson battling aneurysmal bone cystsPhoto courtesy of Naomi Baker Sport Photography

They travel through the water, propelled by lean oars that slice with barely a trace—a continuous, synchronistic cycle. Breathing in. Breathing out. Gathering force. Breathing in again.

For 24-year-old Bermudian Shelley Pearson, rowing is like breathing. Living without it is simply unimaginable.

“I can remember the moment I fell in love with the sport,” says Shelley. “I felt all the athletes in the boat rowing in perfect harmony. It was as if we were gliding weightlessly on top of the water. The moment you’ve experienced that feeling — it’s what you constantly strive toward.”

With multiple U.S. National Championships, a World Rowing Junior Championships gold medal and numerous honors in national collegiate and international competitions, some might say it’s in her genes. Her father competed for Bermuda in running, her brother in basketball. But beyond family tradition is a relentless determination in spite of a fractured pelvic bone, torn tendon and nine hospital procedures in three years.

“It has made me realize I am resilient and also how much of it is mental rather than physical.”

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How Boston Children’s keeps radiation exposure as low as possible

Computed tomography (CT) scans may place children at an increased risk of cancer, according to two recently released studies published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the British Medical Journal (BMJ).  

Despite the highly publicized radiation risks associated with high-dose CT scans, Boston Children’s Hospital has been at the forefront of a movement to reduce the levels of radiation exposure to young patients for years.

CT scans produce high-quality images of inside patient’s bodies and are especially helpful in diagnosing certain illness or injury, like severe brain trauma, appendicitis or problems inside a person’s lungs. To produce their images, CT scanners use highly focused, x-ray beams. When child-sized doses are used, the patient’s level of exposure to radiation is relatively low. Although the risks from low levels of ionizing radiation are not well understood, we assume that even a small exposure to ionizing radiation could potentially lead to an increased risk of cancer and do everything we can to use the minimum amount of radiation necessary to obtain appropriate medical images.

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Technology for imaging can be for treatment too, but where’s the line between them?

On any given day thousands of patients around the world—children and adults—will get an x-ray. What they probably won’t think about while sitting on the table wearing one of those lead aprons, though, is how at that moment the same technology being used to take a picture of their arm or leg or skull is also helping an oncologist treat a cancer patient’s tumor.

X-rays—rather, the radiation used to take an x-ray—are just one example of how many of the energies used to take pictures of the body can also have direct treatment applications. Sometimes the same radiation that takes an x-ray picture is used to zap tumor cells. The difference from one to the other is merely a matter of power.

“It’s like sunshine,” explains Ellen Grant, MD, a neuroradiologist trained in theoretical physics and director of the Fetal-Neonatal Neuroimaging and Developmental Science Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. “A little is completely safe and healthy. But too much can burn.”

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How Boston Children’s reduces radiation exposure

The medical journal The Lancet recently released a study that reports that children who get multiple computed tomography (CT) scans are at slightly increased risk for brain cancer and leukemia.

While the news may alarm parents, it’s something Boston Children’s Hospital has been aware of for some time. In fact, Boston Children’s has for years been at the forefront of a movement to reduce the levels of radiation exposure to young patients.

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