Magnetic resonance imaging scans, or MRI, may soon prove a more efficient and comfortable alternative for diagnosing bone marrow cancer, compared to biopsies and other tests. This is because MRIs can pinpoint cancerous cells – through only a single scan.
What is bone marrow cancer?
Bone marrow cancer, also known as myeloma, takes root in the white blood cells that drive the body’s immune system. Myeloma causes a range of health problems, including low blood counts, bone and calcium deficiencies, infections, and kidney damage.
About 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with this form of cancer yearly.
Why is pinpointing myeloma a problem?
Myeloma could be initially hard to detect. Diagnoses in early stages usually occur thanks to tests for different health issues.
Locating and tracking the cancer as it spreads can also be difficult. Malignant cells could appear anywhere in the skeletal system, and repeated tests, like individual bone x-rays, have been necessary in the past.
Moreover, a bone marrow biopsy – which commonly used to diagnose myeloma – can be inefficient as well as painful. This procedure requires removing tissue from inside the bone, causing discomfort despite anesthesia. In some cases, patients have undergone multiple biopsies only to find out their samples could not be analyzed for results.
An alternative to these methods seemed necessary.
How can MRIs help in diagnosis and treatment?
MRIs can deliver highly sophisticated of images of tissues and cells, down to the details of bone marrow. A type of MRI, called the whole-body diffusion-weighted scan, can help detect myeloma nearly anywhere it may be in the body, without subjecting patients to repeated tests or failed samples.
The quick visual maps that MRIs provide not only help doctors with diagnosis. These can also help them track the progress of the disease, and see where, and how, certain treatments are working.
Further research is required to establish the MRI’s significance in myeloma diagnosis and treatment, but it can already enable first steps to better patient care.
Bone Marrow Cancer Spotted Anywhere in the Body with MRI Scans: Could New Technique
Eliminate the Need for Painful Biopsies? MedicalDaily.com
Treatment Update: Multiple Myeloma, CancerCare.org