Diagnosis and Imaging - Cancer
An accurate diagnosis is the first step to getting your child healthy again, which is one reason why pediatricians across the region refer patients to Mary Bridge Children’s. We offer comprehensive lab work, imaging tests and biopsy or tissue sampling to test for childhood cancers and blood disorders.
We have a full team of experts to keep your child relaxed and comfortable throughout the process, providing anesthesia as needed. Our child life specialists also help explain tests to children and distract them during blood draws or difficult procedures.
One of the first tests your child will likely need is a set of blood tests. A nurse numbs your child’s skin before inserting a small needle under the skin, usually drawing blood from the arm. Our child life specialists assist during blood draws to help distract and entertain children, also explaining the process in child-friendly terms.
Physicians use spinal tap or lumbar puncture to look for cancer cells in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) surrounding the brain and spinal cord. During this procedure, the specialist inserts a needle into your child’s spine to take a sample.
Our sedation services team gives children medication to help them feel drowsy or even fall asleep during a spinal tap to ensure a painless procedure. In most cases, your child won’t even be aware of the needle.
X-rays use high-energy beams of radiation to create images of the body’s internal structures. Doctors typically use X-rays to look for cancer in bones and organs, though other imaging tests can be more useful for showing soft tissue and organs.
The procedure is quick and painless, so your child likely won’t need sedation. Preparation is only required for X-rays with contrast, where your child will need to drink a special liquid ahead of time. The contrast material travels through the body, helping highlight internal structures so doctors can get more detailed images.
CT (Computerized Tomography) Scan
A CT scan combines X-rays and computers to create detailed cross-section or image slices of internal structures. During the procedure, your child must lie on a small table that slides through a large donut-shaped machine.
The scan takes about 30 minutes, during which time your child will need to lie still. Our sedation services team can assist with keeping children comfortable during CT scans.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
An MRI uses radio waves and powerful magnets to create detailed images of your child’s bones, organs and tissues. Your child will need to lie on a table that slides into a tunnel-shaped machine for the MRI, which usually lasts about 30 minutes.
It can be difficult for children to lie still, and the confined space may also cause distress. Our sedation services team is on hand with medicine to make your child feel drowsy or even fall asleep during the test.
PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Scan
A PET scan is a test used to detect tumors in bones and other tissues. Prior to the test, a specialist provides an injection of a sugary substance containing low levels of radioactivity. Cancer cells absorb the sugar, with the radioactive substance then showing the location of cancer cells on images.
After the injection, your child will need to rest quietly for about an hour. Then your child will lie on a small table in the PET scanner while radiologists take images. Sedation services are available to give medication to make your child drowsy or fall asleep during the procedure.
Ultrasound is a noninvasive test using high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of your child’s internal organs and other structures. During the procedure, the doctor puts a special jelly on the skin, moving a wand over the surface to generate images on a computer screen.
Bone Marrow Tests
Doctors use bone marrow aspiration and bone marrow biopsy to confirm a leukemia diagnosis. Bone marrow aspiration means taking a sample of liquid bone marrow, while bone marrow biopsy removes a tiny sample of bone.
Specialists use a long needle for both of these procedures, typically performing them at the same time. The doctor will numb the area beforehand, and the sedation services team is also available with additional medication if needed.
Specialists often need a biopsy or tissue sample to confirm a diagnosis. Our doctors always use the gentlest method possible. Sedation, or anesthesia, is available to keep your child comfortable as well.