Mesothelioma Imaging Scans

Imaging Scans for Mesothelioma

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scanning for Stage 4 Mesothelioma

Asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma can be difficult to detect and diagnose.  Imaging scans are non-invasive procedures which aid doctors in identifying tumors in persons who experience symptoms. Non-invasive imaging scans include MRIs, CT scans and X-rays.

When asbestos-related disease symptoms surface, an oncologist begins with by reviewing the patient’s medical history. Blood tests, physical examinations, and non-invasive body scans are used to identify abnormalities and aid in diagnosis.  Non-invasive scans are ideal in finding difficult-to-find tumors residing in tissues surrounding or between organs.

X-Rays

The Life Expectancy for Stage 2 Mesothelioma

X-rays are one of the basic imaging scans. An X-ray wave is made up of electromagnetic radiation which, when sent through the body, creates an image on photographic film. While helpful in exposing abnormalities or damage, X-rays are limited by being only two-dimensional.

Tumors

Tumors can present in more than one form. While the x-ray of a healthy lung appears as black, a tumor located on the pleura (the membrane which lines the lungs) will present as a wispy white area. Tumors can also alter the shape of the lung and therefore are able to be detected, as well. Lungs often appear as compressed when a tumor has grown around it, raising the diaphragm which can be seen by imaging scans.

Radiation Exposure

While patients are advised to minimize the number of x-rays and avoid unnecessary duplication, x-ray exposure does not cause serious side-effects. One chest x-ray is comparable to the amount of radiation one would naturally be exposed to in a ten-day period.

CT Scans

CT ScansCT or CAT scans (computed axial tomographic scans) are considered to be an ideal means of detecting cancer. CT scans use x-rays to capture detailed images from inside the body. Many radiologists favor the CT scan because of the great clarity in which the tumor image is represented.

Prior to the procedure, some patients are given a contrast agent. The contrast agent is a temporary dye, usually iodine or barium, which can be given orally or injected, as a thirty second process into a vein. Contrast agents help to improve clarity making it easier to distinguishing body parts during the scan.

The CT scan generally takes between 30 minutes to an hour. The patient lies on a motorized table that moves through the scanner as an x-ray machine rotates on an axis around the patient taking an extensive number of images.

Images are then collected and integrated providing doctors with visual data to identify the types of tissues present in areas of concern. The integrated data can be manipulated into 3D representations or viewed in cross sections or slices. One drawback is the data produced by a CT scan only presents in shades of black and white.

Many doctors concur that CT scans provide the best imaging technology for scans of the abdomen and chest – the area’s most prone to the formation of mesothelioma. CT scans enable doctors to identify the stage of a tumor by exposing whether the tumor has spread to nearby tissues, lymph nodes or to distant organs. CT profusion, a recent technique, has been found to be very effective at establishing whether cancer cells have spread throughout the blood stream.

Quick Fact:

CT or CAT scans (computed axial tomographic scans) are considered to be an ideal means of detecting cancer. CT scans use x-rays to capture detailed images from inside the body. Many radiologists favor the CT scan because of the great clarity in which the tumor image is represented.

Prior to the procedure, some patients are given a contrast agent. The contrast agent is a temporary dye, usually iodine or barium, which can be given orally or injected, as a thirty second process into a vein. Contrast agents help to improve clarity making it easier to distinguishing body parts during the scan.

The CT scan generally takes between 30 minutes to an hour. The patient lies on a motorized table that moves through the scanner as an x-ray machine rotates on an axis around the patient taking an extensive number of images.

Images are then collected and integrated providing doctors with visual data to identify the types of tissues present in areas of concern. The integrated data can be manipulated into 3D representations or viewed in cross sections or slices. One drawback is the data produced by a CT scan only presents in shades of black and white.

Many doctors concur that CT scans provide the best imaging technology for scans of the abdomen and chest – the area’s most prone to the formation of mesothelioma. CT scans enable doctors to identify the stage of a tumor by exposing whether the tumor has spread to nearby tissues, lymph nodes or to distant organs. CT profusion, a recent technique, has been found to be very effective at establishing whether cancer cells have spread throughout the blood stream.

Quick Fact:

  • Produces cross-sectional images

  • Effective for organs, tissues and tumors

  • Combines X-rays with computer technology

MRI Scans

Radiation Therapy After SurgeryMRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) scans use electromagnetic radiation to create images of the body. Hydrogen atoms in the body respond to the magnetic signals of the MRI by emitting a very weak radio wave, which can be analyzed by a computer. While the excessive exposure to X-rays can be harmful, MRI scans, with only a few exceptions are not.

MRI scans are painless. However, some individuals may experience brief flashes of light, dizziness, nausea, and a metallic taste. The scan is a noisy process, as the magnetic field gradients turn on and off they produce repetitive knocking sounds.

The MRI computer is able to distinguish the different tissues in the body and assign them various colors. This enables doctor to get a very clear picture of inside the body. As a result, doctors are often able to locate tumors much earlier than X-rays and CAT scans.

MRI scans are excellent at identifying the amount of a tumor’s invasion of other structures, a key step in staging a mesothelioma tumor. The sooner mesothelioma is found and operated on the better probability for survival.

Quick Fact:

  • Can take 30- 90 minutes to complete

  • Uses magnetic images as opposed to radiation

  • High resolutions of bones and soft tissues

PET Scans

PET (position emission topography) scans are considered one of the finest, and most widely used, for identifying and diagnosing mesothelioma and other types of cancer.

Individuals are injected with a radioactive tracer isotope that is combined with some type of glucose.  A short time later, the scanners are able to detect gamma radiation emitted by the tissues in the body that are interacting with the tracer isotope. As a result, PET scans are able to generate detailed images of the body. PET scans are sensitive enough to perceive changes in biological processes, allowing doctors to locate the smallest tumors.

Combining at least two types of imaging tools provides the most powerful scanning technique.  Often scanning machines combine CT and PET scans in the same casing or combined with an MRI. The advantage to combining these scans is as follows – the anatomy that is depicted in the CT scan can be compared and evaluated with the biochemical processes that are represented in the PET scan. Both scans can take place almost simultaneously. Therefore, the patient does not have to be moved, ensuring the images are aligned and precise.

Some studies argue that PET scans are more valuable than the CT or MRI scans for mesothelioma staging. PET scans are extremely effective at exposing cancerous activity in the lymph nodes, which indicates a later stage of cancer in the traditional TNM staging system. They are also highly effective at emphasizing a spread of cancer that may not appear on other conventional imaging scans.

Quick Fact:

  • CT scans performed at the same time

  • Uses injected radioactive isotope

  • Scanning process takes 30-90 minutes to complete

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