Why is it so important to get diagnosed early for serious diseases?
Experience has shown that with many diseases, the earlier that they are detected (even before symptoms may arise) the greater the chance of successfully treating them becomes. It makes sense that the removal of a small cancer tumour would be easier than treatment for a large tumour or a cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. For example, the survival rate in women with breast cancer increases from about 15% to more than 90% if diagnosed at the earliest stage compared to treatment starting at the most advanced stage.
How can new technology help in the process?
Newer technology is able to detect smaller and smaller lesions and therefore disease at an earlier stage, using lower doses of X-Rays if at all.
Is it a very expensive process?
While some tests may seem expensive, it is generally accepted that this cost is dwarfed by the savings resulting from the ability to successfully treat a patient. Diagnostic tests have also replaced other invasive and more expensive procedures.
How long do people usually have to wait to get an MRI scan on the NHS?
This varies from Trust to Trust and the nature of the diagnostic investigation. The NHS has introduced direct access to GPs so that they can refer for a number of tests without first sending their patient to a specialist clinic in the Trust.
What are the different types of scan people can get?
There are a number of different types of scan including Ultrasound, MRI, CT and PET-CT.
Are some of the options more efficient than others?
The different types of scan are suitable for different investigations. For instance, your doctor might choose a CT Scan if they wanted to look for bone injuries or diagnose lung conditions, or an MRI if the problem related to ligament or tendon injuries or brain lesions. PET-CT is often used to look for the spread of cancers or to assist with the diagnosis in dementias.
How long does it usually take to get results back from an MRI scan?
Again, this depends on the urgency of the condition and the individual Trust. A recent report by the CQC highlighted an unacceptable time taken for the report in a number of Trusts. However, a good service should not take longer than two to three days.
What should someone expect when they go for a scan?
MRI, CT and PET-CT scanners all look similar from the outside. They consist of a large donut shaped scanner and bed which slides the patient into the middle for the scan.
Once a patient arrives in the scanning room, they will be asked to lie down on the scanner bed and be made as comfortable as possible. The bed will slowly move the patient into position before the scan starts. The actual scan will last anything from 5 to 45 minutes, depending on the type of investigation. The patient won’t feel anything, but if they are having an MRI there will be some mechanical noise from the equipment so they will be provided with ear defenders.
Some scans include contrast—which means that a dye will be injected into a vein in the patient’s arm either prior to or during the scan.
The radiographer will communicate with them throughout the procedure.
How long does the process last?
This depends on the type of scan and the type of investigation, but varies from 5 to 45 minutes. The average scan is over in less than 30 minutes.