When a potential problem is identified, your physician will order a number of diagnostic tests which might include the following: x-rays, CT scan, MRI, PET scan, Nuclear Medicine scan, bone marrow biopsy and scintigraphy.
PET Scan (Positron Emission Tomography)
Positron emission tomography or PET scan is a test used to look at different parts of the body to see how they are working. PET scans can show how much blood is flowing to an area of the body and how well the tissues in that area use oxygen and food. They can also show where medicines and chemicals go inside the body. A PET scan works by giving radioactive “tracers” as a dye through an IV or as a gas. These tracers are picked up by a scanner and turned into pictures with different colors indicating varying levels of activity.
Computed axial tomography, also called “CT” or “CAT” scan is a painless test that takes pictures of the inside of the body. This radiographic technique produces a film that represents a detailed cross-section of tissue structure. Because CT scans take pictures of the body only a few layers at a time, they are especially good for showing bone, soft tissue and blood vessels.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI uses a strong magnetic field and a computer to take pictures of the body. MRI is especially useful in evaluating the brain, neck, spinal cord and blood vessels. However, nearly every part of the body can be evaluated by MRI. For this painless test patients must remain motionless for high-quality imaging.
Nuclear Medicine Scan
This technique uses an injected radioactive material and a scanner to determine the size, shape, location and function of various organs, structures and body parts. The procedure is painless and is used for assessing solid structures of the body.
Bone Marrow Biopsy
This procedure takes a sample of bone marrow to test for abnormalities. Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue inside some of the larger bones. Bone marrow makes most blood cells, such as red and white blood cells and platelets. The biopsy is performed by inserting a needle into the bone (usually of the hip) and removing the marrow sample during a sterile procedure. The sample is then sent to the lab for testing.
The radiographic procedure is performed to determine lymph node involvement with a primary tumor. A radiographic isotope is injected around the tumor and then imaged after it has traveled to the lymph node group that serves as its primary drainage. Demonstrating this involvement is highly important because effective treatment has been discovered for patients with metastatic lymph nodes.