Radiographic Imaging for Mesothelioma Diagnosis and Treatment

Radiographic or radiological imaging (RI) utilizes the fist discovered vehicle for medical imaging (MI): X-rays. In 1895, in a laboratory at the Physical Institute of Wurzburg University in Germany, X-rays were accidentally discovered by Wilhelm Roentgen, a physicist who had been experimenting with electron beams in a gas exchange tube. As an accidental result of Roentgen’s experiments, X-rays had been serendipitously produced—X-rays that had caused a number of fluorescent screens in the laboratory to glow. The multiple screens’ reaction to the X-rays wouldn’t have been significant, except for the fact that the fluorescent screens and the gas exchange tube were separated by barriers of heavy black cardboard.

When the German physicist inadvertently placed his hand between the gas tube and a fluorescent screen, astonishingly enough, a sharply focused, skeletal image of the physicist’s hand was projected onto a screen. Not only had Roentgen produced the X-ray, he had simultaneously learned the most valuable use of his discovery—a scientific boon that has been widely hailed as one of the most significant medical developments of all time. Today, cancer patients, oncologists, and cancer researchers benefit from Roentgen’s remarkable discovery in countless ways within the cancer fighting disciplines of RI.

Radiographic Imaging Relies on Radioactive Elements

X-rays are forms of ionizing radiation made up of high-energy photons that have been shown to damage human DNA while creating free radicals, which are atoms, molecules or ions that are suspected of contributing to cancer. The art and science of RI relies on the precise delivery of X-rays in a careful and conservative manner that is beneficial and not harmful to humans. A large part of what is known about the dangers of radiation exposure evolves from studies of the victims and survivors of America’s nuclear attacks on the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the close of World War II. Possessing a wealth of radiation exposure knowledge, radiologists today are confident that RI diagnosis and prognosis techniques provide cancer doctors and researchers with safe and effective cancer fighting tools.

Projection or Plain Radiography

Known as either radiographs or Roentgenographs (named for the X-ray’s inventor) the black and white, two-dimensional images of skeletal or soft tissue anatomical structures are familiar to most individuals. Whether we’ve suffered a bone fracture, had our teeth X-rayed or had a chest X-ray as part of a routine physical examination, nearly everyone has viewed a radiograph at some time in their life. These most familiar of medical images are produced when an X-ray machine aims an electromagnetic form of radiation onto a specific part of the body. This type of radiation will tend to pass through more porous matter such as muscle, fat or air while being absorbed or scattered in a particular way by denser materials such as bone, tumors, lung tissue, etc. When this absorbed or scattered radiation eventually passes through the body, it strikes a cassette containing a screen coated with fluorescent phosphors that in turn causes the exposure of an X-ray film.

The above MI technique is known as plain or projection RI, and it is widely used by major hospitals and small neighborhood clinics alike. Radiographs are generally produced by Certified RI Technicians, though, the developed films are usually analyzed by radiologists, a specialist within the physician community. Projection RI is a tried and true cancer diagnosing tool that has been used for well over a hundred years, but Roentgen’s X-rays also play a critical role in some of today’s most advanced MI techniques such as those listed below:

  • Computed Radiography (CR): This form of MI relies on a specialized and sensitized plate that receives the X-rays after they’ve passed through anatomical structures. This plate is then read by a computer which utilizes specialized algorithms to convert the information into digital form.
  • Digital Radiography (DR): MI that is similar to CR, the chief difference being that the X-rays are processed in digital form directly, as opposed to the secondary, algorithmic translation of X-ray information that is achieved through the use of CR.
  • Fluoroscopy: A particularly useful form of RI that provides physicians with real-time imaging of anatomical structures in motion. This type of RI relies on a closed-circuit television connection to a fluorescent screen or image intensifier known as a fluoroscope. Physicians using this form of RI view live images of anatomical structures while the patient remains positioned behind the screen. This form of RI, as well as the two types mentioned above, tend to be the first MI techniques ordered when searching for cancer in the lungs, this due to the wide availability and low cost of this and similar forms of radiographic imaging.
  • Computed Tomography (CT): An advanced MI technology that utilizes X-rays and computer algorithms to generate cross sectional (tomogram) views of internal anatomical structures. CT scanning machines are ring shaped devices that rotate around a stationary patient, providing an axial plane image acquisition that is subsequently digitized by a computer. These cross sectional or “sliced” anatomical images are particularly helpful to radiologists and clinical pathologists who rely on highly specialized anatomical views when diagnosing cancer.
  • Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT): RI technology that utilizes X-rays, computer algorithms, and the acquisition of medical images through the radiological examination of anatomical structures from countless different angles. This highly sophisticated form of RI provides cancer doctors with high resolution, three-dimensional medical images.
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET): Another form of RI that relies on the only device that can provide accurate images of the metabolic function of cancer. Because malignant cells have a higher glucose level than adjacent healthy cells, PET scan technology can hone in on the glucose abnormality, and as a result, PET scans can locate tumors, diagnose them as being benign or malignant, as well as monitor subsequent treatments of the disease.

Move on CT scans for mesothelioma patients.

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