Functional imaging helps doctors make better decisions

Imaging and interventional radiology is changing the way oncologists (cancer experts) treat tumours. Functional imaging, as against the older structural imaging (X-Ray, CT scan and MRI), is helping doctors make better decisions. Dr. Mukkamala Appa Rao, chairman of board of managers, Hurley Medical Center, Flint, Michigan, US, says structural imaging is on its way out with advances in functional imaging. In contrast to structural imaging, functional imagining focuses on revealing the physiological activities within a certain tissue or organ using medical imaging modalities that use ‘tracers’ or probes to highlight their distribution within the body.

The tracers are similar to chemical compounds within the body like glucose. By studying these compounds, radiologists can determine the actual intensity of certain substances to evaluate the risk of developing cancer.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET), which is functional imaging technology, is available in Vijayawada.

Interventional oncology is developing as an alternative to chemotherapy, which is both expensive and painful. In interventional oncology, tumours can be treated using catheters. Depending on the situation, tumours can be either burnt or frozen. In the third alternative, blood supply to the cancerous tissue can be blocked to curtail growth, Dr. Rao says.

New imaging technologies reduce the dosage of radiation. The new motto of the American College of Radiology is “as low as reasonably achievable” (ALARA). Earlier, the emphasis was on clear images, but the emphasis is now on enough dosage of radiation to detect the disease.

American College is a founding participant of the ‘Image Gently’ campaign for dose reduction, particularly in paediatric imaging, and it has also launched Image Wisely, an adult radiation dose reduction effort. The more recent imaging equipment has radiation dose modulation capabilities. Dosage is reduced or increased according to the thickness of the body unlike in the older system where a uniform dose of radiation is used, he adds.