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Radiation and cancer May 21, 2009

Posted by tomography in Cancer, Nuclear Medicine, Radiology.
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Diagnostic scans, whether it is a plain x-ray or CT scan, use some form of radiation and for those who are exposed to radiation sources, the doses eventually add up over the years and may disrupt cell division.

While debated, a recent study suggests that radiation exposure from medical imaging may be responsible for 1-3% of cancers worldwide. In 2004, Lee et al. concluded that “patients are not given information about the risks, benefits and radiation dose for a CT scan”. Additionally, this study found that both patients and physicians were “unable to provide accurate estimates of CT doses”.

If you are curious about your risk data, head over to Xrayrisk and calculate your own values. Just type in your age, the type and number of scans you have had so far, and the approximate dose value in mSv!

The frequently asked questions section of this website contains some short, but detailed descriptions of the various modalities, including Nuclear Medicine modalities, that may be valuable for patients.

Don’t forget, though, it is all about probability! Not one test will ever be able to predict for sure whether someone will have any form of cancer in their lifetime.

– Andras


Breast Cancer and Low Radiation Detection Techniques December 13, 2008

Posted by tomography in Cancer, Radiology.
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If there’s a dreaded word in the medical fraternity, it’s cancer. Even the most ignorant of people know that it’s a killer; cancer may be treatable if you discover the malignant cells in the early stages, it may go into remission if you begin treatment once the disease has set it, it may even hoodwink you into believing it’s gone forever. But the disease only hibernates, sometimes for six months, sometimes for 10 years. It’s like the Sword of Damocles hanging over your head, and you’re in constant fear of death, a very painful one at that.

The only people who have some kind of hope of meeting cancer and living to tell the tale are those who have it detected early. Some forms of cancer are more benign than others, and by benign I mean they are more merciful – they allow you to survive if you succeed in removing the cancerous organ in its entirety. Breast cancer is one such disease – women who are prone to it, either through hereditary factors or because of overexposure to radiation and/or cancer-causing substances, can get themselves checked regularly to prevent falling victim to this deadly disease.

Early detection can save your life, and although you lose your breast in the process, the tradeoff is more than fair when you consider that you live a healthy life for many more years. Breast cancer is screened through a mammography, the procedure where x-rays are used to detect the presence of cancer cells in your breast. It’s safe because it uses a low amount of radiation.

New research has proved that a mammography combined with a breast ultrasound is your best bet to detect the disease as early as possible if you have a history of breast cancer. Results from the American College of Radiology Imaging Network’s ACRIN-6666 trial have shown that women with the early stages of breast cancer are more likely to have the cancer identified when both mammograms and ultrasound scans are performed.

On the plus side, scans are available everywhere, tolerated easily by all kinds of patients and use no radiation. But there is a negative aspect to this testing; it apparently increases the number of false diagnoses too – many people without cancer are told that they have the disease, leading to emotional distress, additional expenditure, and in worst case scenarios, a mastectomy if the patient does not bother to get a second opinion.

At the end of the day though, it’s a known fact that early detection through regular screenings is the best hope that we have today of fighting cancer and keeping this deadly killer at bay. And when the screening methods are not harmful themselves, the smartest thing we can do is to protect ourselves by getting tested.

By-line: This article is contributed by Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of Radiology Technician Training. She invites your questions, comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address: sarah.scrafford25 [at ] gmail.com.

ThermoDox October 17, 2008

Posted by tomography in Cancer, development, Innovation.
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I am certain that one day there will be a cure for cancer, that is why I try to keep up to date with whatever advances there are in cancer treatment. I stumbled upon ThermoDox, an interesting technology that utilizes heat-activated liposomes to kill cancerous cells.

Liposomes are made of that same materials as cells, phospholipids, thus they form a hollow structure that is soluble in water but may fuse with cell membranes. Since they are hollow, they may be filled with anti-cancer drugs.

ThermoDox liposomes are filled with Doxorubicin, a popular anti-cancer agent. They circulate within the bloodstream, so they reach all parts of the body, but only when focused heat is applied do they release their deadly load onto cancerous cells. Thus side-effects are reduced, and more efficient cancer treatment is achieved.

ThermoDox is now in phase III, and you may read more on this technology here.

– Andras

Neurofibromatosis: MRI can help! March 11, 2008

Posted by tomography in Cancer, MRI, Radiology.
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Today, I was browsing WordPress randomly, and I came across a blog titled Neurofibromatosis Cafe. It is run by Reggie Bibbs, who has a rare disorder called neurofibromatosis. NF is an autosomal dominant genetic disorder, and it has two types:

  • NF 1: Incidence 1:3500
  • NF 2: Incidence 1:40,000

NF 1 is characterized by skin lesions (neurofibromas), hamartomas of the iris, pigmented birthmarks, and tumors of the optic nerve. A typical example is shown here:


NF 2 is characterized by bilateral acoustic neuromas on the vestibulocochlear nerve. Here is a CT scan showing an example of NF 2 (black arrows):

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The problem with neuromas is that they are very difficult to operate and may cause serious symptoms, though benign. A team of surgeons at the Mayo Clinic reported that they can identify patients with confidence whose operational outcomes would be favorable using an 3-Tesla MRI scanner. This is great, because we are talking about a rare disorder, therefor surgeons cannot get adequate experience to operate neurofibromas with high success. If the surgeon is able to visualize the anatomical position and relation correctly beforehand, then the operation will more likely succeed.

This new technology allows a multidisciplinary approach to be performed safely in these rare tumors that were once considered unresectable, says Dr Spinner.

If you would like to get more information, I recommend the following articles and websites:

And a video from YouTube:

– Andras

Innovation in moving organs MRI November 10, 2007

Posted by tomography in Cancer, Innovation, MRI, Radiology.
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Isis Innovation, a spinoff of the University of Oxford, has developed new software for existing MRI machines to reduce breathing artifacts in medical images of moving organs, such as liver that sits just below the diaphragm.magnetom

Typically in magnetic resonance imaging, to acquire an image of the whole liver, you would need somebody to hold their breath for 60 seconds. Chances are that the patient is not particularly healthy, so it is expecting quite a lot. In existing methods of magnetic resonance imaging, the patient holds his or her breath for 20 seconds at a time while the machine takes an image of the liver in slices. After 60 seconds the slices are then put back together to form a whole image. Because the liver may move in between breath holds, some of the slices may overlap, or they might be put together incorrectly.

The researchers claim the new technology would eliminate this problem by aligning the slices of the liver image to a reference volume, an outline image of the liver taken before the more detailed slices, automatically checking for overlaps or missing slices. The reference image is acquired with a T1 weighted fast spoiled gradient echo (FSPGR) image. T2 images always take longer to acquire, so you break it down into several. You need both the T1 and T2 images to make the diagnoses, as they provide complementary information.(Source: The Engineer)

Worldwide over 1 million people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer annually, with a great proportion developing metastatic liver disease requiring follow up with abdominal Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Radiographers and Radiologists have raised breathing artefacts as a major issue in accurate diagnosis and estimation of tumour volumes. With current methods, in 19% of cases at least 5% of the liver is missed. Indeed, for lesions between 6 and 30mm in diameter, 3% are missed completely with a further 21% being incorrectly staged, leading to false diagnosis of disease progression or regression.


Working closely with clinical staff, Oxford scientists have used their expertise to find a robust solution. On the left, is an image that is reconstructed from a series of slices. The liver boundary is not smooth and the tumour seems to consist of multiple parts. After application of the Oxford technology, the liver outline is much smoother and the tumour well represented by a spherical shape. The technology significantly improves patient comfort by reducing scan duration and avoiding recalls. The improved quality and accuracy of the dataset provides meaningful estimation of tumour volumes for more precise chemotherapy dose calculation. It is estimated that 25% of the annual 2 million abdominal MRI scans worldwide would benefit from this innovation. The invention reached the Finals of the 2007 Medical Futures Innovation Awards and was also the subject of a recent paper in the European Journal of Radiology. (source:Isis Innovation)

The advantage of the technique is that it is applicable to organs subject to large uncontrolled amounts of motion. An extension of the technology would be the imaging of the head or body parts of patients who suffer from Parkinson’s disease and cannot control their motions.

Is there a doctor in Nintendo’s Wii? November 6, 2007

Posted by tomography in Cancer, Future, Off Topic.
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Nintendo‘s latest wonder, the Wii console hit markets a short year ago, and people are still raving about it. It offers a new dimension in game play, where you actually get into the action by swinging the racquet, the bat, the golf club, etc. I tried it out myself just this weekend in a Budapest shopping mall, and I gotta tell you that even at the age of 25, I do not think that I would be too old for such fun.

But the Wii can go where none of its rivals have ever gone before. In an interesting experiment conducted by doctors at the Minneapolis Hospital, researchers are trying to help stroke victims regain their bodily functions. Patients use the Wii’s motion-sensing controller to simulate real-world actions, helping them recover balance, dexterity and motor control.

Jerry Pope, a 77-year-old former pro tennis player, suffered a stroke in June and has been using Wii Tennis along with regular rehabilitation techniques to recover lost function.

Because of the interaction of the game, I get the physical sensation of playing tennis, it can fool me into thinking that I’m doing what’s happening on the screen.


We’ve seen reports of soldiers returning from Iraq using Wii as part of their rehab and a way to help them heal. We’ve heard directly from several cancer patients telling us the Wii is an integral part of their recovery and rehabilitation, and it makes a huge difference in their spirits.

Nintendo’s Perry Kaplan said.

Wii consoles have also been employed in similar programs at other hospitals. For example, in Edmonton, Alberta, a hospital was recently reported to be using a Wii system to help a boxer recover from a brain injury. More on this.

Starfleet TRICORDER? November 1, 2007

Posted by tomography in Cancer, CT, development, Future, Tomography, What tomorrow brings?.
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Two recent scientific discoveries mark the latest steps toward the ultimate medical-diagnosis technology: the tricorder. Bones McCoy made Star Trek‘s portable black box famous by using it to diagnose ailments without ever touching a patient. Now, studies show that the tricorder is closer to becoming reality. Scientists have been trying to construct a tricorder-like device for years, but no one has managed to pack all the functions of a true tricorder — point, pull a trigger and diagnose — into one hand held unit.


Well, it’s not just science fiction any more — we could see such a contraption, thanks to the USA army and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). This high priority program is to save lives(mainly military yet) of blood loss through the development of a portable system that will automatically locate and noninvasively treat bleeding vessels in arms and legs. The envisioned system uses advanced diagnostic ultrasound techniques with automated control to locate the bleeding and to direct the delivery of High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) energy to the target site to stop the bleed.

Combining the technologies into one compact box may take decades. But the two latest discoveries offer incremental advances in diagnostic medicine — pointing toward more portable and less invasive medical technologies.

labonchipSeveral lab-on chip technologies have brought diagnosis to hand helds, but they still require a tissue sample. Chang and his co-authors have linked visible patterns in CT scans of liver-cancer patients with cancer-gene activity. – Like if imaging the human genome in their tumor. – For example, the scientists could determine whether the gene that spurs the growth of blood vessels (VEGF-vascular endothelial growth factor), was turned on or off, by statistically analyzing a CT image. Experimental treatments such as vaccines and gene therapies attack tumors by shutting down this gene’s ability to feed cancer tumors with new blood vessels. Instead of taking an invasive biopsy that could put sick patients at risk, a noninvasive CT scan could determine the activity of VEGF and many other genes.

In the other research, scientists have developed a compact, precision-magnetic microscope based on a new state of matter. The technology, the researchers said, is as effective as current imaging devices such as MEGs (magnetoencephalography) for the brain and MCGs (magnetocardiography) for the heart, which require a hospital visit because the devices are large and expensive. It’s made possible by a state of matter called the Bose-Einstein condensate (or if you have some more time, here I liked this one). becPhysicists at UC Berkeley have developed the device by harnessing a special property of Bose-Einstein condensates: Because they are cooled close to absolute zero, they are as free of vibrations and thermal noise as a quantum system can be, and are thus like a quiet, acoustically pristine concert hall. Tiny magnetic fields that might be unobservable in other systems are easily picked up.

“As with all new technologies, unexpected vistas might open.” – Dmitry Budker

Likely to hear some news in the near future! 🙂

sources – wired.com, smarteconomy, BEC homepage

Wonderbra October 30, 2007

Posted by tomography in Cancer, Future, Tomography, What tomorrow brings?.
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A breast-screening smart bra which allows users to detect breast cancer at the earliest stage is being developed by the Center for Materials Research and Innovation (CMRI) at the University of Bolton.

smartbraThe smart bra works using a microwave antennae system device which can be easily woven into the fabric of the bra. The bra uses a microwave antennae device and embedded microchips to collect information and create an image of the breast.

The antennae picks up any abnormal temperature changes in the breast tissue, abnormalities associated with cancer cells. Information about each breast is collected and transferred via conducting polymers. A separate controller unit analyses the information and sets off an alarm if the normal breast tissue temperature is exceeded. The cancer detection is based on the principle that metabolic activity and vascular circulation in both pre-cancerous tissue and the area surrounding a developing breast cancer is almost always higher than in normal breast tissue. This process results in an increase in regional internal and external temperatures of the breast. The microwave antennae has high sensitivity and can detect these temperature variations, which are the earliest indications of the breast cancer and/or a pre-cancerous state of the breast.

It is not only very safe but also very cost effective.

said Prof Siores