Making Sense of Cancer of an Unknown Primary

Doctor Looking at X-Rays

Finding out that you have cancer of an unknown primary can be confusing. Fortunately, medical imaging can be helpful in tracking the original location of these kinds of cancers in order for doctors to make more informed decisions about treatments. If you have received this diagnosis, your doctor may send you to an imaging center in San Antonio for a PET scan or other imaging tests in order to learn more about your disease. Here are the answers to some questions you may have about your diagnosis.

Woman Viewing Scan

What is cancer of an unknown primary?

In most cases, cancers are named for the organ in which they began. For instance, if you have cancer that starts in your throat, it will be referred to as throat cancer, even if it spreads to other parts of the body. In this instance, throat cancer is the primary cancer. With cancer of an unknown primary, doctors are not sure where the cancer began. Although your doctor may know that the cancer is in multiple parts of your body, he or she cannot determine what organ was the primary location. Knowing the primary location of a cancer can be important in making decisions about treatments.

How can the primary location be found?

There are a number of tests your doctor may order to find the primary location of your cancer. Biopsies, which allow your doctor to see the cancer cells, can be helpful, as can blood tests. Medical imaging can also play an important role. Doctors can look at how cancer is developing and behaving to help them find the primary location.

Can the primary location always be found?

Sometimes, the starting point of cancer of an unknown primary cannot be found. If the primary location is not found, doctors will build a treatment plan using the information they do have about your cancer. As with other forms of cancer, cancer of an unknown primary may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, targeted and hormone therapies, and other medications.

Your Upcoming CT Scan for Your Sinuses

Woman Getting MRI

If you are suffering from chronic sinus infections and bloody noses, or if your doctor thinks you could have an injury, structural defect, or illness affecting your sinuses, he or she may refer you for a CT scan in San Antonio of your sinuses. If you’ve never had this kind of medical imaging test before, you may be wondering what to expect. Here is what you need to know.

Woman Getting Into MRI Machine

Preparing for Your Scan

In some cases, it may not be necessary to do anything to prepare for the scan. If the imaging center will be using contrast dye for your scan, you may be asked to avoid eating or drinking anything for a set period of time. Be sure to verify with the imaging center before the day of your scan, to avoid any delays. If you have had an allergic reaction to contrast dye in the past or have a shellfish allergy, you should also let the imaging center know, as you may need to take a medication to prevent any potential reaction from occurring. You may also need to take precautions or avoid contrast if you have kidney problems or if you take the medication metformin.

During the Scan

If you are receiving contrast dye, it will be injected via a vein in your arm through an IV. You may feel a pinch from the needle. The contrast can cause a metallic taste in your mouth and may sting for a few seconds. For the scan, your radiologist will position you on a table, which is then moved into the scanner machine. The scanner will use X-ray beams to take images of your sinuses. The scan takes about 30 seconds, and you will need to be as still as possible to avoid blurry images.

After the Scan

Once the scan is complete, you can resume your normal activities right away. You should not have any side effects from the scan. The physician who ordered the test will contact you with the results when they are available.

Making Sense of Your Bone Density Scan Results

Doctor's Office

A bone density scan—also called a DEXA scan —is used to determine if you have or are at risk for osteoporosis. If you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, your doctor may refer you for a bone density scan to determine if your treatment is working or if your condition is getting worse. This test can performed quickly at an imaging center in San Antonio and is completely painless.

DEXA Scan

Your bone density results are expressed as T-scores. If your T-score is -1.0 or greater, then your bone density is normal. T-scores between -1.0 and -2.5 suggest that you have low bone density. If your T-score is -2.5 or less, then your doctor may diagnose you with osteoporosis. If you are sent for a DEXA scan after you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, your doctor will check to see if your T-score has improved, which suggests that your treatment is working. If your T-score has gotten worse, it means you have suffered further bone loss and may need another kind of treatment.

Preparing for a PET or a PET-CT Scan

PET & CT Scans

PET scans and PET-CT scans are used for a number of reasons, most frequently to diagnose cancer and evaluate the effectiveness of cancer treatments. If you’ve been referred to an imaging center in San Antonio for a PET scan, this video will give you information about how to prepare and what to expect.

The medical imaging center will advise you whether you need to avoid eating or drinking before your scan. Be prepared to be at the imaging center for a few hours, as you must wait for the tracer used during the scan to work its way through your body. The scan is painless, but you will need to be still for the test, which can take up to an hour.