IRSN, Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire

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Enhancing Nuclear Safety


Theses in progress

Psychosocial analysis of radiation protection in medical field: Future opportunities for IRSN

Host laboratory: Human and Social Sciences Laboratory (LSHS)

Beginning of the thesis: October 2016

Student name: Mathias ROGER

Subject description

Exposure to ionizing radiation in the medical field is the most common form of intentional exposure. In addition, this type of exposure is becoming even more widespread, with the increasing use of medical imaging techniques and higher collective doses (IRSN report PRP-HOM No.2014-6). The general public is exposed to ionizing radiation when undergoing various types of imaging procedures, including mammograms. However, the general public has no clear idea of what such exposure entails: patient information on the subject of the risks involved is unclear and the total dose received by a patient is not calculated. To fill this gap and explain, inform, communicate and educate, IRSN has set up a website: "Radioprotection en question".

However, communicating to the public about the risks and advantages of the medical uses of ionizing radiation implies dealing with people's beliefs, perceptions and fears of nuclear science. To facilitate better comprehension and encourage people's behavior regarding prevention, as promoted by IRSN, a psychosocial study of society's representations of the medical use of nuclear techniques is needed. To this end, we will focus on the example of screening for breast cancer. This research will draw on social representation theory and on studies of healthcare and prevention behavior.

To this end, a number of surveys to collect data will be carried out.


  • A quantitative public survey in the form of a questionnaire will be used to collect data on the social representation of nuclear technology in general and of the medical use of ionizing radiation in particular.
  • A quantitative survey of women affected by organized breast cancer screening programs, as well as of women who undergo individual screening. The aim is to investigate the representations women have of screening and of the use of ionizing radiation in screening.
  • A survey of healthcare professionals: gynecologists and general practitioners since they are the ones who refer or invite women to go for mammograms; radiologists and radiographers since they are the ones directly involved in screening. This survey aims to understand what these professionals think of screening, as well as how information is shared between them and their female patients.
  • Media discourse aimed at the general public, healthcare professionals and institutions will also be analyzed. This will be used to analyze the content of the messages aimed at the different groups in question.

Future opportunities

Based on the analysis of the information collected thanks to these surveys, we hope to identify the significant points in these representations for the different groups in question, and develop recommendations that can be used by IRSN.


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