MRI / X-Rays
You hear the terms MRI, CT Scan and PET Scan all the time on those TV medical dramas. You see the patients going into the long tubes and under the rings, but to be honest, I didn't know exactly what they were for or how they worked. (I was too busy staring at the handsome McDoctors!)
When I was diagnosed with "sparky", my meningioma, learning what all the tests were, what they revealed and what exactly went on in those great big machines became critical. The following definitions come from literature distributed by my radiology team.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a test that uses a computer, magnetic fields and radio waves to generate images of the inside of the body. It does not use any form of ionizing radiation, and it can be used for virtually all parts of the body. Read more about MRIs>>
Also known as a "CAT scan," CT (Computed Tomography) combines multiple X-ray images to produce a two-dimensional cross-section view of anatomy with as much as 100 times more clarity than conventional X-ray. CT imaging is used to clearly show soft tissue, like the brain, as well as dense tissue, like bone. The information gathered during a CT scan is processed by a computer and interpreted by a radiologist to diagnose, or rule out, disease. Some CT scans require the use of a contrast medium. Given intravenously, the contrast agent highlights certain body parts to enable the radiologist to better see any abnormalities. CT scans of the abdomen and pelvis often require the patient to drink a barium-based liquid to outline the intestines for better viewing. Read more about CT Scans>>
Nuclear Medicine and P.E.T.
Nuclear medicine is a safe form of diagnostic testing. It is unique in that it provides doctors with information about function. Therefore, it is ideal for identifying abnormalities at an early stage of a disease-before medical problems are apparent with other diagnostic tests. Nuclear medicine uses very small amounts of radioactive material, also known as radiopharmaceuticals, that are detected by a special camera. Computers are then used to reconstruct precise pictures in the area of the body being imaged. The amount of exposure is similar to that of a general X-ray.
P.E.T., or Positron Emission Tomography, is similar to nuclear medicine and is used to detect the presence and severity of cancers, neurological conditions and cardiovascular disease. P.E.T. works by measuring the amount of metabolic activity, typically glucose (a type of sugar), in certain areas of the body. Because cancer cells have a higher metabolic rate than normal cells, P.E.T. can be used to diagnose, stage, and restage cancer and/or monitor response to therapy based on this metabolic activity. P.E.T. is combined with CT to allow both analysis and localization of active tumor tissue.
Read more about Nuclear Medicine and P.E.T. >>