Anyone who is having new or unusual symptoms often worries about the possibility of cancer as the cause. In these cases, the very best scenario is an early diagnosis, which is crucial to prevent the spread of cancerous cells and to increase the chances of success after treatment. To accomplish this, Southwest Diagnostic Imaging Center uses various imaging tests to both diagnose and monitor the patient during treatment.
The Incredible Value of Diagnostic Imaging Tests
The goal of an imaging test is to allow physicians to see what is happening inside the body. These tests create various images that can look at signs of cancer in its earliest stages, known as early detection screening tests.
Diagnostic imaging tests can help physicians accomplish the following:
- Look at a questionable mass or lump anywhere on the body
- Explain concerning or unusual symptoms reported by the patient
- Help predict if a tumor or mass is likely to be cancerous and then decide if a biopsy is required
- Help to determine the stage of the patient’s cancer and if or how far it has spread
- Select an appropriate treatment specific to a particular patient
- Show the exact location of the cancer to aid in the treatment process
- Decide how effective a type of treatment is by showing if the tumor has grown, remained the same, or shrunk
- Diagnose a recurrence of cancer
Common Types of Diagnostic Imaging Tests
CT Scan – Computed Tomography
Also known as a CAT scan, a computed tomography helps Southwest Diagnostic Imaging Center to detect cancer and show a tumor’s size and shape. This exam is normally performed as an outpatient procedure and takes approximately 20 – 30 minutes to complete. CT scans are even able show the network of blood vessels feeding the tumor as it gives a detailed 3D image using X-rays from various angles.
Like other types of diagnostic imaging tests, several CT scans taken over time can help to compare how treatments are progressively impacting the cancer, or if there is a recurrence.
MRI – Magnetic Resonance Imaging
An MRI helps physicians to identify many different forms of cancer, if it has metastasized (spread elsewhere in the body), and consider ongoing treatment plans. This test creates cross sectional images of the inside of a patient’s body using strong magnets instead of radiation. An MRI can take from 45 – 60 minutes or even up to 2 hours depending on the particular area of the body being evaluated.
Conventional and Digital Mammography
Conventional mammography uses X-ray images to look for suspicious areas within a person’s breast tissue that may show signs of cancer.
Digital mammography also uses X-rays, but the images are translated through a computer system rather than being processed on film. These digital photos can therefore be enhanced, which helps to eliminate human error during the breast cancer screening and diagnostic process.
An ultrasound creates images using high frequency sound waves. This tool can guide needles for biopsies, and is also quite efficient at differentiating between solid tumors and fluid filled cysts inside the body that would otherwise require a biopsy to accurately identify.
Nuclear Medicine PET Scans – Positron Emission Tomography
A positron emission tomography scan creates images of minute chemical changes that take place tissues throughout the body. Patients are injected with a tracer that is able to enhance the visibility of cancerous tissue in the completed PET scan.
Unfortunately, these images are less effective in detecting small or less aggressive tumors, but they can help to show areas affected by cancerous cell growth when other tests produce a photo that appears to be perfectly normal. PET scans are also an effective tool to evaluate and stage recurrent cancer cases.
Speak with Southwest Diagnostic Imaging Center about an upcoming diagnostic imaging test and what you can do to properly prepare for your examination, or to learn more about additional diagnostic resources that may influence your treatment.