Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Save Your Radiation

I had an MRI of my neck recently. No radiation from that, but the radiologist who read the images recommended a CT scan to follow up on an abnormality he noted. My doctor said he'd order the scan. Because I was given excessive radiation as a child (my adenoids destroyed with radiation because at the time it was thought to be safer than surgery), I'm careful about radiation exposure. I told my doctor I'd have the CT scan if he thought it was really necessary, but asked if it really was. In response, he referred me to a specialist for evaluation.

The specialist examined me, found nothing wrong, and said I absolutely didn't need a CT scan. Pointing out that CT scans carry a high dose of radiation and yet are ordered almost casually these days, he declared, "Save your radiation."

A Harvard Medical School website says, “Over 80 million CT scans are performed in the United States each year, compared with just 3 million in 1980.” The article talks about radiation exposure, and concludes: 

“So until we know more, you will want to keep your exposure to medical radiation as low as possible. You can do that in several ways, including these: 

Discuss any high-dose diagnostic imaging with your clinician. If you need a CT or nuclear scan to treat or diagnose a medical condition, the benefits usually outweigh the risks. Still, if your clinician has ordered a CT, it's reasonable to ask what difference the result will make in how your condition is managed; for example, will it save you an invasive procedure? 

Keep track of your x-ray history. It won't be completely accurate because different machines deliver different amounts of radiation, and because the dose you absorb depends on your size, your weight, and the part of the body targeted by the x-ray. But you and your clinician will get a ballpark estimate of your exposure.

Consider a lower-dose radiation test. If your clinician recommends a CT or nuclear medicine scan, ask if another technique would work, such as a lower-dose x-ray or a test that uses no radiation, such as ultrasound (which uses high-frequency sound waves) or MRI (which relies on magnetic energy). Neither ultrasound nor MRI appears to harm DNA or increase cancer risk. 

Consider less-frequent testing. If you're getting regular CT scans for a chronic condition, ask your clinician if it's possible to increase the time between scans. And if you feel the CT scans aren't helping, discuss whether you might take a different approach, such as lower-dose imaging or observation without imaging. 

Don't seek out scans. Don't ask for a CT scan just because you want to feel assured that you've had a "thorough checkup." CT scans rarely produce important findings in people without relevant symptoms. And there's a chance the scan will find something incidental, spurring additional CT scans or x-rays that add to your radiation exposure.”


Sunday, March 26, 2023

Something New in My Old Woodstove

 My woodstove (like my lawn tractor) is a "hard start." I've used this big, beautiful Jotul for decades, and after I stopped burning wood all night it always took some time (and multiple matches) to get it going in the morning. I started with crumpled newspaper topped with three pieces of fatwood (split by me with a cleaver in the kitchen), and kindling wood on top of that. Once it caught fire (whenever that might be) I added larger pieces of wood, and eventually larger still. 

I forget what I was looking for at the time, but one day last year I went down an internet rabbit hole of wood burning advice and found myself reading a blog by a guy who advocated the opposite approach: He starts his woodstove fires from the top down. With his stove loaded with wood, starting with the largest logs on the bottom and ending with kindling on top, he added "Nantucket Knots" of newspaper. He said the knots—made by rolling a sheet of newspaper corner to corner and then tying a loose knot in the middle—stay in place better than crumpled paper. He lit the knots and soon all the wood ignited and he had a roaring fire in the stove. Much too roaring for me.

I was intrigued with the knots, which I'd never heard of, and tried my hand at making some. I could have called them New York Nots. They were not neat, not effective, and not worth trying again. 

But something about the blogger's "top down" method had me thinking, and as I mulled it over a very much simplified version came to me. I tried it out, and ended up using it for the whole rest of the season. It provided quicker heat. It turned a somewhat dreaded chore into one I actually looked forward to. And most of the time it required only one match!

First, I lay down two medium-size split lots, leaving about 2" of space between them. Then I fold a full double sheet of newspaper, make a roll about 11" long, and put it in that space, starting at the back (farthest from me). If I have a cardboard cylinder from a roll of toilet paper I put it over the newspaper like a napkin ring. About 4 or 5" of space is left to fill at the front. I do this by rolling up a single sheet of newspaper into another 11" roll and then folding it in half. I stuff this in between the logs at the front.

On top of the paper I place two or three split pieces of fatwood, and on top of that a handful of what I call "twigs"-- small debris from dead tree branches, easily obtained in my yard, especially after a strong wind. Next comes one or two pieces of kindling my son splits for me, and finally a couple of smallish logs--round ones in these pictures. The twigs are good at making things stay put.

Then comes the fun part: lighting the paper. Despite the fact that my Jotul doesn't have the best airflow, everything catches fire quickly, including the larger logs at the bottom. It isn't long before the fire looks like this, and cats Rocky and Scruffy have moved into their favorite spots by the warm stove.

Perhaps you can keep this method in mind for next year!