Diagnostic Imaging: The Role in Diagnosing & Treating Cancer

Diagnostic Imaging: The Role in Treating Cancer

How is cancer diagnosed?

There is no single test that can accurately diagnose cancer. The complete evaluation of a patient usually requires a thorough history and physical examination along with diagnostic testing. Testing is required to determine whether or not a person has cancer. Effective imaging, along with laboratory tests, can confirm the disease, monitor the diseases progress, and help plan and evaluate the effectiveness of treatment.

What are the different types of diagnostic imaging?

Diagnostic imaging is the process of producing valuable images of body structures and organs. Imaging is used to:

  • Detect cancer
  • Determine whether the cancer has spread
  • Assess the effectiveness of a cancer treatment plan
  • Identify re-staging of existing cancer

Imaging may also be used when performing biopsies and other surgical procedures.

At Weeks we offer the latest state-of-the-art cancer diagnostic imaging technology.

PET/CT Scanner (Positron Emission Tomography) One of the technical strengths of Weeks cancer program is on-site PET/CT Scanning. A tiny amount of a radioactive substance is used during the procedure to assist in the examination of the tissue under study. This mobile scanner provides images that pinpoint the location of abnormal metabolic activity within the body by looking at the cellular level. PET may detect biochemical change in an organ and tissue that can identify the onset of a disease process before anatomical changes can be seen with other imaging processes such as CT or MRI.

CT Scanner (Computed Tomography) A CT scan is a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional horizontal images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) MRI is a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of a large magnet, radio frequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. An MRI is often used to examine the heart, brain, liver, pancreas, male and female reproductive organs, and other soft tissues. It can detect tumors and diagnose many forms of cancer, evaluate infections, and assess injuries to bones and joints.

X-rays X-rays are diagnostic tests that use invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs on film. X-rays may be taken of any part of the body to detect a tumor or cancer.

Ultrasound Ultrasound, or sonography, is a common type of reflection imaging. This technique uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images, called sonograms, of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. Sonograms are used to view internal organs as they function and to assess blood flow through various vessels. Tumors in the abdomen, liver, and kidneys can often be seen with an ultrasound.

Mammogram A mammogram is 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. Weeks is the first hospital in the United States to install the Aspire HD Full Field Digital Mammography system from Fujifilm Medical Systems U.S.A. The system offers image clarity that enables extraordinary detail of potential abnormalities, such as micro-calcifications and tumors, for a more accurate and reliable diagnosis. The special ergonomic design reduces discomfort for women during examination. It is also faster and shortens the procedure by 10 minutes.

If a patient is diagnosed with cancer, what are the treatment options? Cancer patients at Weeks don’t have to travel hours for treatment. Weeks offers patients access to experienced and respected primary care providers, oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, and nurses. Weeks offers the most current protocols for cancer diagnosis, treatment, and care. We have a strong partnership with Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center, and we are fortunate to have three oncologists from Dartmouth who offer regular clinics for the treatment of cancer. Skilled and caring oncology nurses staff the Oncology Department, which is open five days a week.

By Scott Baxter, MSOT/L, and Robin Carpenter

Scott Baxter is the director of radiology and Robin Carpenter is the chief radiology technologist at Weeks Medical Center.