Imaging produces pictures of body structures and organs. It is used to detect tumors and other abnormalities, to determine the extent of disease, and to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment. Imaging may be used in addition to biopsies and other surgical procedures.
Transmission imaging: X-rays, computed tomography scans (CT scans), and fluoroscopy are radiological examinations. The images are made when a beam of high-energy photons is produced and passed through the body structure. The beam passes very quickly through less dense types of tissue, leaving a darkened area on the X-ray film. Muscle and connective tissues (ligaments, tendons, and cartilage) appear gray. Bones will appear white.
X-ray: Calcium in bones absorbs X-rays. That means bones look white on an X-ray film. Muscle and other soft tissues absorb less radiation and have more gray tones. Air absorbs the least, so lungs look black. The most familiar use of X-rays is checking for broken bones, but X-rays can also be used to check for cancer.
Computer Tomography Scan, also called CT or CAT scan: A computed tomography scan uses X-rays to create images of the body. However an X-ray and a CT scan show different types of information. A CT scan gives a three dimensional look within the body. By imaging and looking at several three-dimensional slices of a body, a doctor can not only tell if a tumor is present, but how deep it is in the body. A patient may be given a contrast agent in a drink and/or by injection to help show the boundaries between organs or between organs and tumors more clearly.
4-D CT Scanning: A 4-D CT scan is a CT scan that is taken over a longer time period. It allows the physician to see exactly how the organs and tissues move inside the patient while the patient breathes. This is critical when a radiation oncologist is deciding how to treat a patient. It allows the radiation oncologist to track the tumor while the patient breathes. This allows the radiation oncologist to determine the tumor is receiving the correct amount of radiation.
Bone Scan: X-rays taken of the bone after a radioactive material has been injected that is absorbed by bone tissue. These scans are used to detect tumors and bone abnormalities.
Lymphangiogram: An imaging study that can detect cancer cells or abnormalities in the lymphatic system and structures. It involves a dye being injected into the lymph system.
Mammogram: An X-ray examination of the breast. It is used to detect and diagnose breast disease in women who either have breast problems such as a lump, pain, or nipple discharge, as well as for women who have no breast complaints. Mammography cannot prove that an abnormal area is cancerous, but if it raises a significant suspicion of cancer, a biopsy may be performed.
Digital mammography: A method of diagnosing breast cancer that allows the images to be improved digitally. Conventional mammography uses X-rays to look for tumors or suspicious areas in the breasts. Digital mammography also uses X-rays, but the data is collected by a computer instead of on a piece of film. This means that the image can be computer-enhanced or areas can be magnified.
Ultrasound: Uses sound waves that are at a higher frequency than sound that is heard by the human ear. A transducer is placed on the body. The transducer gives off the sound waves. The sound waves are reflected back to the transducer by organs and tissues in the body. The reflected sound waves are then used to draw a picture on a computer screen showing what is inside the body. Ultrasound can be used to look for certain types of tumors. It is also used to guide doctors during biopsies or when treating tumors with radiation therapy.
Emission imaging: Tiny nuclear particles or magnetic energy are detected by a scanner and analyzed by computer to produce an image of the body structure or organ being examined. Nuclear medicine uses emission of nuclear particles from nuclear substances introduced into the body specifically for the examination.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging, also called MRI: Uses radio frequency waves in the presence of a strong magnetic field to cause cells to emit a radio frequency. Different tissues, including tumors, emit different signal intensities. Using these signals, a picture of what is inside the body can be created and shown on a computer screen. Much like CT scans, an MRI can produce three-dimensional images of sections of the body. An MRI is sometimes more sensitive than CT scans. MRI is also an established technique for imaging many other organs and tissues including the heart, the brain, bone marrow, cartilage and the abdomen.
Positron Emission Tomography, also called PET: A type of nuclear medicine procedure where a tiny amount of a radioactive material is used to assist in the examination of the tissue under study. PET studies evaluate the metabolism of a particular organ or tissue. Information about the functionality and structure of the organ or tissue is evaluated, as well as its biochemical properties.
3 Tesla MRI of the Prostate: When facing a disease like prostate cancer, it’s important to have the most accurate and complete information about your disease possible. Precise and detailed images of your prostate give you and your doctor important information that can help you make informed decisions about your treatment.