The X-files – radiology

The radiology journey for a cancer patient could either be during screening for diagnostic purposes, or for review during cancer treatment. Alice Banze explains the role of a patient navigator in this journey as well as the different imaging procedures.


Easing the stress

A patient navigator uses their specialised radiology knowledge and experience to help patients understand the specific procedure, with the goal to identify and eliminate fear and anxiety.

Patient navigators are key to explaining radiology terminology; various technology   and differences between modalities; the use of contrast; coordinating bookings; and attending to patients’ needs, like how to deal with claustrophobia during MRI.

A simple explanation of where the radiology department is located within the healthcare facility and who to meet on arrival could be a relief for the patient.

The navigator’s goal is to eliminate the barriers to care and to be the link between the primary physician and the radiology team.

Radiology results are obtained from the radiology department, once they have been interpreted.

The team of radiology specialists

As a patient you might meet one of the following team members of radiology specialists:

Radiologist

A doctor specialising in the field of radiology who leads the team. He/she is responsible for interpreting results of examinations and would perform certain procedures. 

Radiographer

A medical technologist who is responsible for doing various radiology exams, like CT scans, MRIs, X-rays, ultrasounds and mammograms. 

Radiology nurse

These nurses may commence intravenous fluid therapy and administer medication, contrast or nuclear substances. They assess, monitor and document the patient’s ongoing health status and teach patients about radiology procedures. 

Medical physicist

A medical professional who ensures safe and accurate use of radiation therapy (use of ionizing radiation to control or kill malignant cells). They work with the radiology team in treatment planning and set guidelines for procedures and monitor the radiological equipment.

Types of procedures

Mammogram 
Non-invasive low dose X-ray imaging test where the breast is placed on a table and slight pressure is applied to it.
X-ray 
A non-invasive imaging medical test, used to expose a part of the body to a small dose of ionising radiation, creating pictures of the inside of the body, to diagnose and treat medical conditions. 
CT scan (computerised tomography)
A non-invasive procedure which uses a doughnut-shaped machine with a table in the centre. 

It’s a type of X-ray device which uses a computer to control the motion of the X-ray source during the procedure. The doughnut rotates around the body to 

take pictures from different angles and processes the data to produce detailed images of internal organs, bones and other tissues. 

It assesses the size and shape of the organ, or tissue, and 

may be used to look at all sides of the tumour. The machine makes buzzing noise as it takes pictures. 

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
A non-invasive imaging procedure which uses a doughnut-shaped machine and a table in the centre. The table goes into the machine. 

Unlike other imaging machines that use X-ray radiation, MRI uses a computer as well as magnetic and radio waves to create detailed images of the inside of the body.

Jewellery and other objects that could be magnetised should be left at home. 

Patients with pacemakers, metal chips or metal implants can’t use the machine due to its magnetic effect. 

It can show muscles, ligaments, cartilage, nerve roots and tendons in details. It assesses the size and shape of the organ or tissue.

Cancer and the staging of cancer can be detected by using an MRI scan. 

PET (positron emission tomography)
A non-invasive imaging procedure which uses a doughnut-shaped machine with a table in the centre. However PET scans use a dye containing glucose/radioactive tracers which are absorbed by the tissues and organs. This dye is either injected, inhaled or swallowed. It’s used to detect disease in the body. Cancer cells absorb the dye far more quickly than healthy cells and they appear brighter on the images. It assesses the function of the organ or tissue.
Ultrasound
Non-invasive medical examination that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images within the human body.
Alice Banze is a novice nurse navigator at Netcare. She is an oncology trained professional nurse and a former bone marrow transplant coordinator. She is also a member of Academy of Oncology Nurse and Patient Navigators (AONN).

MEET OUR EXPERT – Alice Banze

Alice Banze is a novice nurse navigator at Netcare. She is an oncology trained professional nurse and a former bone marrow transplant coordinator. She is also a member of Academy of Oncology Nurse and Patient Navigators (AONN).


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