Mesothelioma Imaging Scans
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects, in most cases, those with long-term exposure to asbestos fibers. This kind of cancer is typically hard to diagnose because the mesothelioma symptoms displayed in the patient are similar to a number of other illnesses and conditions. For this reason, it is important to use advanced imaging technology to assist with proper diagnosis.
Diagnosing Mesothelioma with Imaging Scans
Because the symptoms match those of many other diseases, mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose and locate. The tumors that are produced may show up in any part of the mesothelium and can even be found between organs. A cancer doctor is going to begin any patient examination with a thorough review of the patient's medical history. As the diagnosis process progresses, there may be several tools used simultaneously to get the most accurate results. Along with blood tests and others, a medical professional may use one or more of several body scans to detect any abnormalities.
The first and most basic imaging scan is an x-ray. This scan is limited, but may be able to detect certain areas that show damage or abnormalities in the body. One of the biggest drawbacks in the x-ray is it can only produce a flat, two-dimensional image. When an x-ray is taken, electromagnetic radiation is sent through the body with a photographic film on the other side. The way the waves, or rays, behavior changes as they pass through the body and different kinds of tissue, thus creating a representative image.
Computed tomography scans, referred to as either CT Scan or "CAT scan," still utilizes x-rays to capture images from inside the body. The x-ray machine and the film travel around the body on one axis and take a large number of images. The images can then be collated and combined to give doctors an excellent idea of what different tissues are found in the area(s) of concern. The data can even be manipulated to show different slices of the tissue and can be rendered into three-dimensional representations. Though an incredibly valuable tool for the medical industry, a CAT scan is still only able to present its data in various shades of light and dark.
Magnetic resonance imaging scans use electromagnetic radiation to develop images of the body. Hydrogen atoms in the body respond to the magnetic signals by putting out a very weak radiowave, which a computer can analyze. With a few exceptions, MRI scans are not harmful to the human body, while excessive exposure to x-rays can be. These scans offer all that a CAT scan does and more. The biggest bonus to MRI scans is the ability of the computer to differentiate between tissues in the body and assign them various colors. This lets doctors get a very clear picture of the interior of the body, which can help locate tumors much earlier than the other two kinds of scans. The earlier mesothelioma is discovered and operated on, the better odds a patient has for survival.
One of the best and most widely used scans for detecting and diagnosing mesothelioma and other kinds of cancer is the positron emission tomography scan, known as a PET scan. These scans use tracers and cameras to develop a detailed image of the body and even detect changes in biological processes, allowing doctors to find even the smallest tumor. PET scans involve an injection of a radioactive tracer isotope, combined with some form of glucose, into the blood stream of the patient. After a short waiting period, the scanners are able to detect gamma radiation produced by the tissues in the body that are interacting with the tracer isotope. The scans can produce very accurate representations of the body and can even display what is happening chemically in the tissues.
The most powerful scanning technique combines at least two of the above. Many scanning machines are coming to medical facilities with PET scanners and CAT scanners in the same casing, and some are combined with MRI. The advantage to this is that biochemical processes, which show up in a PET scan, can be compared to what the anatomy that appears in the CAT scan. Both scans can happen almost simultaneously, so the body does not have to be moved during the scan. This ensures that the images are accurate and align with each other. The advantage to this is that biochemical processes, which show up in a PET scan, can be compared to what the anatomy shows in the CAT scan.