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Ask the doctor: Do I need a thallium stress test every year?

Updated: January 01, 2007

Ask the doctor

Do I need a thallium stress test every year?

Q. Ever since my bypass operation in 1996, my cardiologist has me take a thallium stress test every year. I haven't had any heart-related trouble since the bypass, and the test results are always fine. I'm worried that the radiation from these tests is going to give me some kind of radiation-related cancer. What does this test tell my cardiologist? Do I really need it?

A. The danger from the minuscule amount of radiation involved in a thallium stress test isn't something you should worry about. No one has ever demonstrated that nuclear cardiology tests increase the risk for cancer, so the danger is trivial, if it exists at all. That's the good news. The bad news is that the need for you to have this test every year is probably equally nonexistent.

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