Diagnostic imaging is a critical part of catching and treating medical conditions early. Your doctor may recommend diagnostic imaging if you have specific symptoms or if other tests, like blood tests, indicate a need for further investigation.
It can be difficult to determine what’s happening inside your body. Since your doctor can’t directly see your organs, they may rely on diagnostic imaging to better understand how your body is functioning. Diagnostic imaging lets your doctor see inside your body through a variety of methods, such as x-rays, magnets, or sound waves. These scans may include:
Many medical conditions can be hard to identify in their early stages. You may be asymptomatic or experience symptoms with a wide variety of causes, like mild pain or fatigue. Without diagnostic imaging, these conditions may not be identified until you’ve developed more severe or visible symptoms. Because many conditions are more treatable the earlier they’re identified, waiting for severe symptoms to occur can have fatal consequences.
Diagnostic imaging can catch these conditions early, when they are most treatable. For conditions such as cancer, the difference between early detection and later detection are significant. The 5-year survival rate for colon cancer that’s caught early is 91%; this drops to 11% if the cancer has spread to other organs.
Diagnostic imaging can be used to identify a variety of medical conditions in their early stages.
Lung cancer is the most deadly cancer in the U.S., largely because it’s difficult to catch in its earliest stages. A chest x-ray can identify some lung tumors, but by the time a tumor is big enough to show up on a chest x-ray, the condition has already progressed to a dangerous stage. Other forms of diagnostic imaging, like low-dose CT scans, can catch lung tumors when they’re significantly smaller, improving the odds of survival for those affected.
While many conditions impacting the brain aren’t diagnosed until symptoms appear, diagnostic imaging can quickly help your provider diagnose your symptoms and help them get the treatments they need as early as possible. Your doctor may recommend diagnostic imaging, most commonly a brain MRI, to identify conditions such as brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, or dementia.
Many conditions, such as cancer, have the best outcomes when diagnosed early. Through diagnostic imaging, your doctor can identify medical conditions in their earliest stages, ensuring you can access the most effective treatments available.