X-rays :: Barium Studies :: Ultrasound :: CT Scan :: MRI
If your doctor has scheduled you to have an x-ray exam, it is important that you
understand why you have been asked to undergo this test and what steps are
needed for a proper preparation.
A chest x-ray and x-rays of the bones are often taken to check your general health
and see if there has been any spread of the cancer to other parts of the body.
The organs of the digestive system don't show up on x-ray unless they are 'outlined'
by barium meal. This is a medical test used to examine the condition of the digestive
tract using a heavy, white, radio-opaque powder called barium sulfate. This powder
is usually flavoured and mixed with a liquid which is then swallowed by the patient.
The mixture passes quickly into the digestive tract and its progress is followed by
taking x-rays over different periods of time, depending on which part of the
digestive tract the doctor wants to observe.
Barium meal is a test that allows your doctor to view the upper part of your bowel,
using a white fluid called barium to outline the shape of the throat and stomach,
and a fizzy drink to open up the walls of the stomach.
A barium swallow involves x-ray examination of the esophagus, and is used
to help diagnose swallowing or reflux problems.
A barium meal-barium swallow test -is ordered for people who are having trouble
swallowing, or having unexplained pain or vomiting. It provides useful information
about the condition of your gullet and stomach, and can make or confirm a diagnosis.
A similar examination of the large intestine, or colon, is called a Barium enema, or
Lower GI. Of course, in this instance, the barium is not swallowed, but is given rectally
as an enema - thus the more common name, Barium Enema. This examination takes
less than an hour and requires fasting as well as an unpleasant laxative and dietary
preparation the day or two before. Prep instructions vary and will be provided and
be sure to follow them exactly so the test need not be repeated.
Ultrasound (US) imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, is a
method of obtaining images of internal organs by sending high-frequency sound
waves into the body. The reflected soundwaves' echoes are recorded and
displayed as a real-time, visual image. No ionizing radiation (x-ray) is involved
in ultrasound imaging.
Common uses of Ultrasound
Ultrasound imaging is used extensively for evaluating the kidneys, liver,
gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, and blood vessels of the abdomen. Because
it provides real time images, it can also be used to:
- A sample of cells (biopsy) can be taken at the same time for examination
under the microscope by a pathologist
- Help a physician determine the source of many abdominal pains,
such as stones in the gall bladder or kidney, or an inflamed appendix
- Help identify the cause for enlargement of an abdominal organ
e.g., liver and spleen
Doppler ultrasound is a special type of ultrasound study that examines major
blood vessels. These images can help the physician to see and evaluate:
- Blockages to blood flow, such as clots
- Build-up of plaque inside the vessel
- Congenital malformation
CT Scan (CAT scan)
CT SCAN is basically an x-ray tube that rotates in a circle around the
patient and takes a series of pictures as it rotates. The multiple x-ray
pictures are reconstructed by a computer in axial slice images at different
levels. Each level can be examined separately.
A CT scan may show if the cancer has spread beyond the liver or to other parts
of the body such as the lymph nodes.
The scan takes from 10-30 minutes. You may be given a drink or injection of a
dye, which allows particular areas to be seen more clearly. For a few minutes,
this may make you feel hot all over. If you are allergic to iodine or have asthma
you could have a more serious reaction to the injection, so it is important to let
your doctor know beforehand.
You will probably be able to go home as soon as the scan is over.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI or NMR scan)
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive imaging technique. This test is
similar to a CT scan but uses magnetism instead of X-rays to build up cross-sectional
pictures of your body. It is used to view organs, soft-tissue, bone, and other internal
body structures. In an abdominal MRI, the person's body is exposed to radio waves
while in a magnetic field. Cross-sectional pictures of the abdomen are produced by
energy emitted from hydrogen atoms in the body's cells.
An individual is not exposed to harmful radiation during this test.