Imaging studies are tests performed with a variety of techniques that produce pictures of the inside of a patient's body. They have become indispensable tools in cancer screening and detection.
Imaging tests are performed using sound waves, radioactive particles, magnetic fields, or x rays that are detected and converted into images after passing through body tissues. Dyes are sometimes used as contrasting agents with x-ray tests so that organs or tissues not seen with conventional x rays can be enhanced. The operating principle of the various techniques is based on the fact that rays and particles interact differently with various types of tissues, especially when cancerous growths are present. In this way, the interior of the body can be visualized and pictures are provided of normal structure and function as well as of abnormalities.
Imaging tests differ from endoscopic tests, which are carried out with a flexible, lighted piece of tubing connected to a viewing lens or camera.
Imaging studies are used to detect cancer in its early stages in a procedure called screening. Screening is performed in patients who have no obvious cancer symptoms. Imaging studies are also used to locate tumors in patients who have symptoms which the physician may wish to investigate further so as to distinguish between benign growths or cancerous tumors. They are also used to determine the extent of a cancer and indicate how a given treatment is unfolding. As such, they represent crucial tools for cancer diagnosis and management.
Monique Laberge Ph.D., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,