Medical Imaging Technologies for Cancer Treatment and Research

Medical Imaging (MI) is a broad term that encompasses nuclear, computer, and magnetic sciences-based technologies that provide oncologists and cancer fighting researchers with high resolution, multidimensional views of human anatomical structures. Skeletal and soft tissues, as well as cellular and molecular mechanisms and systems can be studied using MI technologies.

MI was first introduced to the healing and medical research community in the form of X-rays. While X-rays offer a two dimensional image, the base technology remains a critical component to some of the most advanced, three dimensional MI techniques in existence today. The oldest of all the MI technologies, X-rays were first discovered in 1895 by the German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen, and the scientific breakthrough is still considered by many to be one of the most important medical discoveries in human history.

Physicians and Researchers View Malignant Disease in Real time

MI technology is indispensable to diagnosing physicians, as well as to bench (laboratory) and clinical (patient-involved) cancer researchers who rely on non-invasive, MI techniques to provide them with critical anatomical information. MI allows clinicians the opportunity to examine, in real time, the myriad elements of cancer. Where surgical explorations of the human body were once required, state-of-the-art MI devices now facilitate bloodless investigations of neoplastic (uncontrolled cell growth or tumor related) disease.

For many types of cancer, early detection is critical to a successful therapeutic outcome, and modern day MI devices are providing oncologists and health professional support personnel with unprecedented, cancer fighting diagnostic capabilities. Most people are familiar with the MI technique known as endoscopy, which refers to the insertion of a tube into the body. Endoscopy devices are manufactured from a wide variety of designs to perform a singular task: to allow physicians and researchers to view remote sections of the body in a non-invasive manner using highly miniaturized video cameras that sometimes rely on the body’s circulatory system (veins and arteries) for their path of travel. Endoscopic, real time images allow oncologists to see first hand if malignant disease is present.

Computed Tomographic Medical Imaging

Cancer treatment and research professionals rely heavily on another type of medical image that is produced through the use of computed tomography (CT). A tomographic image provides physicians and scientists with an X-ray utilized, computer algorithm generated, three dimensional, sectional or slice view of an anatomical structure. Computer Axial Tomography (CAT) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan machines are familiar examples of this type of medical imaging. Computed Tomography was first developed in 1972 through the collaborative efforts of South African physicist Allan Cormack and the British engineer Godfrey Hounsfield from the research programs at Tufts University and EMI Laboratories respectively. Both scientists were subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their outstanding contribution to medicine and science.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

After seven long years of an intense research effort put forth by the three physician team of Dr. Raymond Damadian, Dr. Larry Minkoff, and Dr. Michael Goldsmith, a most remarkable event occurred in Brooklyn, New York on July 3, 1977. On this date, the first ever Magnetic Resonance Imagining (MRI) examination was performed on a human being, and the world of medical imaging has never been the same. Magnetic Resonance Imaging provides the cancer treatment and research community with an invaluable MI asset that forgoes the need for the radioactive (X-ray) components of CT scans. MRI employs extraordinarily sophisticated technologies that rely on natural properties of the human body and extremely powerful magnets (magnetic forces equal to approximately 10,000 times the gravitational pull of the earth). MRI produces unparalleled views of anatomical structures, and it is widely recognized as the ultimate form of medical imaging today.

Radiographic Imaging

See our page on radiographic imaging for mesothelioma.

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