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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Feeling a new bump or change in your breasts can be frightening, because your first thought may be that the growth is due to breast cancer. However, it’s important to remain calm and see your doctor, who can refer you to an imaging center in San Antonio for a definitive diagnosis. When a mammogram or other imaging exam reveals a breast cyst, your radiologist may recommend ultrasound-guided breast cyst aspiration, which is a simple, outpatient procedure. Ultrasound imaging is ideal for guiding the procedure, because ultrasound provides images with real-time movement using high-frequency sound waves, which do not expose the body to ionizing radiation. If your doctor has recommended this procedure, read on to learn some basic facts that will help you prepare.
Breast cyst aspiration is minimally invasive.
During a breast cyst aspiration, a needle will be guided to the cyst, and it will withdraw fluid from inside of the growth. The procedure only requires a small needle stick, so it does not carry the same risks as more invasive surgeries or biopsies. On the day of the procedure, you should wear comfortable clothing, avoid deodorant and perfume, and be prepared to spend about an hour under the radiologist’s care. The breast will be numbed to reduce any discomfort.
The procedure is not necessarily indicative of breast cancer.
Having a breast cyst does not mean that you have breast cancer. Benign growths in the breasts are common, and these are often the cause for aspiration procedures. Even if cancer is detected, your diagnosis may come earlier than it would have without this testing, so your prognosis may be greatly improved.
Results from aspiration are not immediately available.
Like other imaging procedures, breast cyst aspiration does not have immediate results. Your radiologist will share the results of the test with your doctor, who will inform you of the outcome. Results are determined in part by the color of the fluid removed from the cyst, as the absence of blood will indicate that the growth is likely non-cancerous.
Most women are familiar with mammograms, which are standard screening procedures to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. One procedure that you may have more questions about is galactography, which may also be referred to as ductography. This exam will take images of the inside of the milk ducts in the breasts, which may be necessary when women have the symptom of bloody or clear discharge from the breast without other abnormalities in a standard mammogram.
Galactography is a lot like a mammogram from the patient’s perspective, but it does involve preparation with a special contrast dye to focus images on the milk ducts. To prepare for the exam, you should simply avoid squeezing the nipple and show up to your appointment in comfortable clothing. Just like any other mammogram, galactography will require that you stay completely still as the images are taken, and you may feel slight discomfort as the machine compresses the breast to acquire clean, readable images.
Getting an X-ray is a simple, painless process that should not take more than about an hour from the start of your imaging appointment. If your doctor has referred you to Concord Imaging Center for an X-ray near San Antonio, you don’t have to do much to prepare. You should, however, take the following steps to make your visit go smoothly.
Wear the Right Clothing
You may be asked to wear a gown for your X-ray, depending on the area of the body being imaged. To ensure that you can move freely if you do not wear a gown, come to your appointment in comfortable clothing that’s easy to remove if necessary. You should also avoid wearing jewelry or be prepared to take off any jewelry once you arrive. Finally, refrain from applying skincare products like deodorant or lotion prior to your appointment.
Ask Your Doctor If You Can Eat Beforehand
Sometimes eating before an X-ray will not interfere with results, but other situations may require you to avoid food for a few hours before the exam. Ask your doctor to be sure, and inquire about any other preparations you may need to do.
Schedule a Follow-Up with Your Physician
X-ray technicians will not discuss your X-rays with you on the spot. Instead, a radiologist will interpret your results and report back to your referring physician. Your doctor will take the time to inform you of the results of your exam and walk you through the next steps, so you might schedule this visit before you even have the X-ray done.
Inform Your Radiologist of Existing Health Conditions
If you have any preexisting health conditions, you should inform the radiologist before your X-ray. In addition to any health problems, you should mention if there is a chance that you could be pregnant, since ionizing radiation can be harmful to your developing child.
Migraines can be frustrating for patients, because they do not always have clear causes. Imaging exams such as X-rays and MRIs in San Antonio may be helpful for identifying the root cause of migraines, but they are not necessarily helpful in every situation. This video offers some insight into when MRI is indicated for individuals who are suffering from migraine headaches, providing physicians with some clear guidelines on when imaging will become most useful. In cases where patients are over the age of 50 and experiencing a new type of headache, for example, an MRI may be helpful in ruling out other neurological causes for headaches.
Mammograms are an important part of preventative care for women, as well as diagnosing and managing breast cancer care. Diagnostic mammograms are a step beyond routine screening mammograms and are usually ordered for further evaluation of an abnormality. The radiologist at your medical imaging center in San Antonio will be happy to answer any questions you have about your diagnostic mammogram. Here are the answers to some of the questions patients have most frequently.
When is a diagnostic mammogram ordered?
You may be referred for a diagnostic mammogram if your healthcare provider notices symptoms that could indicate that you have abnormal tissue growth in your breast. You may also be referred for a diagnostic mammogram if you report a change in your breast health, such as a lump or nipple discharge to your doctor. By performing a diagnostic mammogram, your doctor can determine if your symptoms are associated with a benign condition or if you may need further testing for cancer.
What happens during a diagnostic mammogram?
A diagnostic mammogram is performed in the same way as a screening mammogram. Your breasts will be placed one at a time between two plates that then compress the breasts so that an X-ray picture can be taken. Your radiologist may take extra images of a particular part of your breast if requested by your doctor, if there is one area in particular he or she wants to study. Although some women experience minor discomfort during the compression process, it only lasts for a few seconds.
What happens after a diagnostic mammogram?
A radiologist will review your mammogram and provide information about the results to your doctor. If there are areas of the mammogram that could be associated breast cancer, your doctor may order additional testing. An ultrasound and a needle biopsy test can give your doctor more information about the cellular changes in your breast, so he or she can determine if you should undergo treatment for breast cancer.
When it comes to MRIs, it’s not uncommon to have a little nervousness before your test. The good news is that MRIs are completely painless, and your imaging center specialist in San Antonio will ensure that you are comfortable throughout the entire process.
This video will give you some insight about what to expect during your MRI, so you can approach your scan with more confidence. It’s normal for the MRI machine to make noise during the test as the scan occurs, so don’t be alarmed by loud sounds. Before your MRI, contact the imaging center if you have any concerns about claustrophobia during the test, which can be easily managed, if necessary.
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