ZocdocAnswersWhat do radiology evaluations measure in people with cancer?

Question

What do radiology evaluations measure in people with cancer?

Will they make sure I'm not being exposed to too much radiation? I am terrified of radiation poisoning?

Answer

I recommend that you speak with your oncologist about the reasons for, and intervals between, radiology studies to monitor your cancer. In general, oncologists--which are doctors that specialize in cancer--compare radiology studies over the course of time to track changes in the size of a cancer. These studies are typically useful to track changes in any of the following: 1. Tumors that cause a large mass, such as a tumor in the colon or in the lung 2. Tumors that have spread to the lymph nodes (or in some cases, cancers that are isolated to the lymph nodes) 3. Cancer that has spread to bones, and pieces of the bone are replaced by tumor 4. Cancer that has spread microscopically to various organs or bones The term "radiology evaluations" can refer to many different types of studies, each providing a different amount of radiation exposure. For example, CT scans (also called CAT scans) are useful to track changes in large tumor masses or in the lymph nodes. A CT scan gives strong x-ray radiation. Generally, it is wise for younger people to avoid numerous CT scans, since over time the radiation exposure can possibly lead to the development of a cancer. Your oncologist can discuss your personal risk with you. To monitor changes in tumor that has started to replace pieces of bones, your doctor may be able to check regular x-rays--which gives much lower radiation exposure--or a PET scan, which monitors the activity of the cells in the body. A radiologist can also review the radiation risks with you.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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