Medical imaging is a non-invasive way to get detailed images of internal organs, tissues, blood vessels and bones. These images provide very valuable information that doctors use to detect, diagnose, treat, monitor and study disease. Doctors can also use imaging to help prevent disease.
No other technology has advanced medicine as much as imaging. Today’s sophisticated technology allows physicians to identify very early cancers long before troubling symptoms appear. This means cancer can be diagnosed at a stage that permits the broadest range of treatment choices.
There are different types of imaging technologies with different applications depending on the location and the use of the images. Some involve exposure to small amounts of radiation, but more methods are being developed that do not involve any exposure to radiation. Imaging devices that do not expose the patient to radiation may be preferred as long as the image quality is at least as high.
Dr. Robert Bard has devoted his professional career to seeking out the most highly developed imaging modalities in the U.S. and Europe. He is an expert in interpreting scans obtained from sophisticated technologies: Ultrasound (Sonography or Sonograms) including Doppler blood flow, elastography, contrast enhanced ultrasound, and photoacoustic imaging; Computerized Tomography (CT); Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) including 3T multiparametric MRI and MRI spectroscopy; Thermography; Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and PET/CT scans, etc. In short, if there’s an imaging technology that has proven clinical value, Dr. Bard is familiar with it.
Dr. Bard is particularly an authority on Ultrasound, a method that is gaining rapid favor for many uses.
Ultrasound -Sonography, Sonogram
Ultrasound uses sound waves, or sonic energy. Sound waves are transmitted harmlessly through the skin into the body by a special device called a transducer. The sound waves create echoes that bounce off tissue and are picked up by the transducer. They are then converted into images that can be seen on a screen. Most people are familiar with the use of ultrasound to monitor the development of a fetus in the mother’s womb. The same principle applies for different wavelengths (frequencies) to depict different types of tissue.
Using state-of-the-art equipment, Dr. Bard’s practice offers the following forms of sonography to evaluate blood flow related to tumor activity and to identify areas of suspicion:
- Power Doppler Ultrasound
- 3D Power Doppler Sonography with histogram vessel density analysis for tumor aggression
- Color Doppler Ultrasound
Power Doppler Imaging uses blood flow ultrasound technology and has been shown to accurately differentiate between cancer and benign prostatic hypertrophy and to demonstrate post-therapy success.
Imaging and Cancer Detection/Diagnosis
When imaging detects a region of interest or suspicion, it can also be used to direct selective biopsy needles where necessary in order to obtain very small tissue samples for further laboratory analysis (pathology). The use of imaging together with pathology gives the most accurate information about the size, location and aggressiveness of any cancer thus identified.
Imaging and Cancer Treatment
If cancer is found when it is small and localized (no spread), imaging can guide minimal-to-noninvasive targeted treatments that destroy the tumor without damage to nearby healthy tissues. This approach is called focal ablation (destruction) because it focuses destructive cold, heat, electric current or chemicals on the tumor and its blood supply. Here are some examples of image-guided ablation techniques:
- Ultrasound is used to plan and guide prostate HIFU (High Intensity Focal Ultrasound-Ablation), prostate cryotherapy (freezing) and prostate laser ablation (heat)
- CT scanning is used to guide insertion of cryoprobes through the skin into kidney tumors to destroy kidney cancer
- MRI can be used to plan and guide focal laser ablation in the prostate
Imaging and Monitoring Treatment Success
After treatment for a cancerous tumor, imaging is frequently used to confirm that the targeted area was successfully destroyed (or removed if surgery was done). In the case of Power Doppler Sonography, there should be no sign of blood flow to the treated area. Periodic imaging, at intervals recommended by the doctor, can monitor the area surrounding a previous treatment for any possible new cancerous growth.
Imaging and Prevention
Many routine imaging procedures can assure people that they are at risk for a disease or catastrophic medical event: heart scans, virtual colonoscopies, and lung screening are a few examples of ways to encourage healthy choices (nutrition, supplements, exercise, stress management, etc.) by reinforcing them. Those striving to implement and maintain a health-conscious lifestyle as well as those who are at increased risk of certain diseases (hereditary factors or environmental exposure to toxic substances) can confirm that their efforts to prevent disease are working.