Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI is a test that helps doctors find the location and spread of cancer within the body. MRI results also help doctors determine the best treatment plan, such as surgery or radiotherapy.
The MRI uses magnetic energy and radio frequency waves to capture images of the material that, inserted into the body through a vein. The MRI test typically lasts between 45 to 60 minutes, but can also last as long as 2 hours.
A special breast MRI particularly targets and checks for breast cancer. Side effects of an MRI that may occur are:
- Pain at the injection site
- Headaches that appear a few hours after the test
- Dizziness due to a decrease in blood pressure
An X-ray exam helps doctors find cancer cells in the bones, abdominal organs, and kidneys. Although CT scans or MRIs show more detailed results, X-rays are just as fast, easy, and are a more affordable option in diagnosing certain cancers.
In this procedure, the use of an iodine-based contrast material, such as barium, is useful for making the organs visible on X-rays more clearly. One type of X-ray examination is mammography as a breast cancer screening test. Depending on the contrast method, the duration of the examination can take from 5 minutes to 1 hour.
The side effects of this cancer test include a burning sensation in the injection area, nausea, vomiting, and changes in the sense of taste.
Nuclear imaging can help doctors find the location and extent of cancer spread. There are several types of nuclear scans that can detect cancer. These are bone scans, PET scans, thyroid scans for thyroid cancer, MUGA (multigated acquisition) scans, and Gallium scans.
This cancer diagnostic test creates images based on body chemistry like other imaging tests, using liquid radionuclides.
That said, this nuclear scan is often unable to detect tumors that are very small in size.
The duration of the examination takes 20 minutes to 3 hours, with side effects including swelling and pain at the injection site and allergic reactions.
If the results of the X-ray are not clear, the doctor will recommend an ultrasound to find the location of the cancer. This scan uses high-frequency sound waves that pass through the body to produce images. In some cases, an ultrasound is also useful for differentiating between a cyst and ovarian cancer.
A doctor or technician conducts an ultrasound by applying a special liquid on the surface of the skin and attaching the transducer. They then insert this tool into the esophagus, rectum, or vagina.
That said, ultrasound images are not as detailed as CT or MRI scans, and sound waves also cannot penetrate the lungs and bones. An ultrasound is a safe test and has very little risk of side effects.
All tests for cancer screening through scanning are very helpful. But due to their limitations, your doctor may also perform other screening tests.
2. Endoscopic Procedures
How is cancer diagnosed? At times, your doctor may employ endoscopic procedures. An endoscopy is a medical procedure that inserts a tube-shaped instrument into the body to see what’s inside. There are several types of endoscopic procedures, such as: