Most of us are aware that radiology imaging studies such as CT scans, mammograms, and x-rays use ionizing radiation to capture images and allow our radiologists and treating physicians to see what ails us.

But how many of us ask our doctor whether the test he/she is ordering is "appropriate?" The word "appropriate" doesn't just have the benign connotation of whether the study is indicated. In fact, there is a whole set of criteria, "Appropriateness criteria," that are determined by groups of 20 or more physicians and revised every three years as needed.

These ACR Appropriateness Criteria can give you the peace of mind that your doctor is following the evidence and recommendations that are necessary to ensure your safety. Too much ionizing radiation can cause cancer. Imaging studies must therefore be relevant and necessary in order to do maximal benefit and minimal harm.

When your doctor orders an imaging study, ask him/her if they have reviewed the Appropriateness Criteria. If they have not, consider a second opinion before you agree to undergo the ordered study. If they are aware of the criteria, thank them and ask them to explain the recommendations.

Become aware. Stay informed. Your health depends on it.