Types of Mesothelioma Imaging Tests
There are five types of imaging tests that may be used to confirm your mesothelioma diagnosis.
These tests are:
- Chest X-rays
- CT scans
- MRI scans
- PET scans
A chest X-ray is the first imaging test your doctor is likely to administer if he or she suspects you have mesothelioma. X-rays use light rays to create a picture of the inside of your body.
Chest X-rays can reveal:
- Calcium deposits in the lungs
- Thickening of the lung lining
- Fluid buildup in the lungs
- Other lung abnormalities that may indicate mesothelioma
Computer Tomography (CT) Scans
Similar to X-rays, a computed tomography (CT) scan creates a comprehensive image of your body that can locate mesothelioma and other forms of cancer. Before you can receive a CT scan, you’ll be asked to drink an oral contrast solution. You may also receive an IV contrast to help outline your organs on the scans.
The CT takes numerous images, creating a cross-sectional view of your body and many of the components inside of it. CTs are one of the most reliable forms of confirming a cancer diagnosis.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scans / PET-CT Scans
Positron emission tomography (PET) is a type of imaging scan that uses a sugary radioactive substance to detect cancer cells. If you receive a PET, a low dose of a radioactive substance will be injected into your body and you will wait for about one hour before receiving a PET scan.
Cancer cells grow at a rapid pace, which causes them to consume a larger quantity of sugar than other cells. The PET scan uses the injected radioactive material to observe the contrast in this sugar consumption and see whether cells are cancerous, ultimately revealing where the cancer has spread within your body.
Some facilities have machines that are capable of performing a CT scan and a PET scan at the same time. Because the two types of scans perform slightly different functions, a PET-CT scan can help your doctor diagnose and stage mesothelioma with greater accuracy.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scans
A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is similar to a CT scan in many ways but uses radio waves instead of light waves to take a detailed look at your body. An IV contrast solution is given before an MRI, which allows medical professionals to view the contrast between your organs and issues.
MRI scans are excellent at displaying soft tissue imagery and can be highly effective in diagnosing mesothelioma.
However, the procedure usually isn’t used until mesothelioma or cancer is already suspected, because of the time and physical restraints. If you receive an MRI, you can expect to lay inside a tube for up to an hour while the MRI scan occurs.
An echocardiogram is a specialized form of ultrasound that uses sound waves to take an image. After a gel is placed on the chest, a wand sends sound waves into the body to create a picture on a monitor.
Your doctor may request an echocardiogram if he or she suspects fluid build up around your heart, or to see how well your heart is functioning.