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Musculoskeletal Oncology

Imaging Modalities


The radiology experts at Albany Medical Center use imaging tests to take pictures of inside the body and to recognize areas of diseased or abnormal tissue. Imaging tests allow providers to formulate a differential diagnosis (What are the possible tumors you may have?), to assess the extent of the disease (Has it spread or stayed localized in one spot?), and to identify how well treatments are working. Some of the imaging tests we provide include:

Radiographs (x-ray)

A radiograph is a simple, quick, easy, and inexpensive imaging study. It is the best single imaging method for accessing bone lesions and evaluating aggressiveness of lesions.  A differential diagnosis is best formed from the radiograph.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

This type of imaging can be time consuming (45 to 75 minutes) and expensive. The images captured are multi-planar and multi-sequence. MRIs give excellent anatomical detail and are best at showing the extent of the disease. They are also considered the best soft tissue studies used to see which vital structures are in close proximity to the mass. There is no radiation exposure.

Computerized Topography (CT)

CT scans are faster (5 to 10 minutes) and less expensive than MRI. CT imaging is the best study for bone detail or to evaluate for mineralization seen in cartilaginous lesions (enchondroma, chondroblastoma) and the best single test for diagnosing osteiod osteomas. There is more radiation exposure than a radiograph.

Bone Scan

A bone scan involves a lengthy exam, consisting of an initial injection and imaging, followed by several hours of waiting before final or delayed imaging is returned. Bone scans are excellent for checking for a single site, versus multiple sites of a disease. There is a hot or positive test in areas of bone turnover. Bone scans are very sensitive, but not specific.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan

A PET scan is the most expensive test for imaging. It is used to identify hot or positive areas with high metabolic activity (many tumors).  PET scans are better with certain types of tumors but are being utilized more and more for staging and follow-up surveillance.A PET Scan's role in evaluating patients with sarcomas is still under investigation and is not clearly defined.

Ultrasound

An ultrasound is a simple imaging technique that is quick and inexpensive. Patients are not exposed to radiation. An ultrasound is the best method for determining if a mass is cystic (fluid filled) or solid. Ultrasounds work well for very young patients and superficial masses.