Cancer Schmancer…

You won't keep me down
Breast Cancer Ribbon


MRI scans are also used to look for cancer that has spread to various parts of the body, just like CT scans. MRI scans are particularly helpful in looking at the brain and spinal cord.

MRI scans use radio waves and very strong magnets instead of x-rays. The energy from the radio waves is absorbed and then released in a pattern formed by the type of body tissue and by certain diseases. A computer translates the pattern into a very detailed image of parts of the body. A contrast material called gadolinium is often injected into a vein before the scan to better see details.

MRI scans are a little more uncomfortable than CT scans. First, they take longer — often up to an hour. Second, you have to lie inside a narrow tube, which is confining and can upset people with claustrophobia (a fear of enclosed spaces). Newer, “open” MRI machines can sometimes help with this if needed. The machine also makes buzzing and clicking noises that you may find disturbing. Some centers provide headphones with music to block this noise out.

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