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CT Scan, MRI and PET Scans

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January 19, 2000

CT Scan, MRI and PET Scans…What are the differences?
CT, MRI and PET scans are all diagnostic tools to non-invasively (non-surgically) look inside the body. They are all based on the fact that certain things happen to atoms in our bodies when they absorb energy. Resonance refers to the level of absorption achieved by adjusting the frequency of the radiation and the strength of the magnetic field – like tuning a radio to a particular station.

CT (computerized tomography) uses a sophisticated X ray machine combined with a computer to create a detailed picture of the body’s tissues and structure. Usually a special dye called a contrast material will be injected prior to the scan. This makes it easier to see abnormal tissue due to specific absorption rates.

Nuclear magnetic resonance is produced by measuring the magnetism of spinning electrons and protons and their interactions with nearby atoms (usually protons) when they absorb energy. This provides information about the chemical structure of organic molecules. The use of the word “nuclear” has recently been avoided and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is now preferred. MRI uses a magnetic field from super-cooled magnets and can often distinguish more accurately between healthy and diseased tissue. A contrast agent is usually used. MRI can provide pictures from various angles and construct a three dimensional image. Some patients who have received certain types of surgical clips, metallic fragments, cardiac monitors or pacemakers cannot receive this type of scan.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans measure emissions from positron-emitting molecules. Because many useful, common elements have positron emitting forms (carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen), valuable functional information can be obtained. This is the main difference between the CT and MRI scans. The PET shows molecular function and activity not structure, and therefore can often differentiate between normal and abnormal (cancerous / tumor) or live versus dead tissue. Like SPECT (single photon emission tomography), PET also can product three dimensional images, and is usually used to compliment rather than replace the information obtained from CT or MRI scans.

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Chemotherapy is Not Always the Answer
For many people, chemotherapy can help destroy the cancer that is attacking their bodies. However, it's not always the answer. Some people actually become immune to the harsh treatment. A new drug could be the answer this group of people has been waiting for. Click here to review article.

New Compound Shows Potential as Therapeutic Cancer Therapy
Scientists at the University of Nebraska Medical Center have demonstrated that AVI's antisense compounds, Neugenes(R), effectively regulate p53 gene action at significantly lower doses than earlier generations of antisense compounds. Click here to review article.

Researchers Discover Early Stages of Tumor Development
Mark Dewhirst and colleagues at Duke University have seen the earliest stages of a tumor forming and had found a new class of cancer drugs that mmay be used to stop tumors from spreading. Click here to review article.

Advanced DNA-based Technology Detects the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the Cause of Virtually all Cervical Cancer
LabCorp will begin utilizing the Digene Hybrid Capture II HPV Test for women with ASCUS (atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance) or borderline Pap smear results. Utilization of Digene's HPV test permits physicians and their patients to immediately know their risk status. Women with a negative HPV test result have the peace of mind in knowing that they are at greatly reduced risk for developing cervical cancer.
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