Radiation in health care - safer and better use

The Budget supports safer and better use of radiation in medicine by reducing radiation doses to patients through improved training and techniques.

Page last updated: 08 May 2007

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Why is this important?

  • The use of radiation in medicine is a core element of diagnostic imaging (x-ray and computed tomography scans) and treatment of cancer. However, the use of radiation does have risks. An accurate knowledge of the radiation doses delivered to patients is needed to minimise errors and to ensure that the best outcome is achieved.
  • Reducing radiation doses to patients by 30 per cent could prevent some 60 to 100 malignant cancers each year. In radiotherapy treatment, improved management of radiation doses could result in up to 50 fewer cancer fatalities a year.
  • This measure will improve the safe and effective use of radiotherapy and diagnostic imaging, improve training for persons working in the medical radiation field, and provide information on techniques to reduce radiation doses to patients.

Who will benefit?

  • Australians receiving radiation doses for medical diagnosis and treatment will benefit from improved practices and techniques. It is estimated that the current number of diagnosed malignant cancers (non-skin) could be around 114,000.
  • A fundamental part of quality assurance for radiotherapy treatment for cancer patients is the calibration of the radiation dose being delivered to patients. This is done by Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) with a medical linear accelerator, which is now to be upgraded.

What funding is the Government committing to the initiative?

  • The Government is committing funding of $9.0 million over four years. This includes $2.75 million in 2007-08 to purchase a medical linear accelerator to provide more accurate measurement of radiation doses.

What have we done in the past?

  • This initiative will supplement quality assurance processes already in place to support the safe use of radiotherapy.

When will the initiative conclude?

  • Funding for this initiative is ongoing.

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