Families & Kids

Tests & Procedures

Your child's doctor may order different tests and procedures depending on the type of cancer your child has. These may include:

Bone Scan

A bone scan takes pictures of the bones to look for a tumor, infection or any damage to the bones.

A special dye or tracer is given intravenously before the pictures are taken. In the pictures, the dye will show up areas of bone that are not normal. A bone scan can often find a problem days or months earlier than a regular X-ray test.

It does not hurt to have a bone scan, but some children feel ‘closed in' when the scanner moves over the body. It is important that your child lies very still for this test which may take up to an hour. If needed, the doctor will order medicine to make your child sleepy and better able to lie still.

CT Scan

CT scanning combines special x-ray equipment with sophisticated computers to produce three dimensional pictures of the inside of the body. These pictures can then be examined on a computer monitor. CT scans of internal organs, bones, soft tissue and blood vessels show more details than regular x-ray exams.

Prior to the test, a contrast dye may be given as a liquid to drink or by IV. Your child will need to lie still as the pictures are taken around the body. Some children will need sedation in order to lie still for up to an hour to complete the scan.

It does not hurt to have a CT scan done, but your child may be uncomfortable lying in one position.

Echocardiogram

A test that tells the doctor about the structure and function of your child's heart. The “echo” shows how well the valves are working, how well the heart muscle is moving, how blood is flowing and the size of the four chambers of the heart.

The echo uses high frequency sound waves to take pictures of the heart. Your child will lie on his/her left side and a technician will put a gel on the chest which conducts signals from the heart. A small device that looks like a microphone (transducer) will be placed in different positions on the chest to record sound waves of the heart. They will appear as pictures on an ultrasound screen.

This test takes about 30 minutes and there may be mild discomfort from the pressure of the transducer.

Electrocardiogram

An electrocardiogram — abbreviated as EKG or ECG — is a test that measures the electrical activity of the heart. With each beat, an electrical impulse (or wave) travels through the heart. This wave causes the muscle to squeeze and pump blood from the heart. The EKG shows if the electrical activity is normal or slow, fast or irregular. By measuring the amount of electrical activity passing through the heart muscle, the doctor can find out if parts of the heart are too large or are overworked.

Small plastic circles with a metal center (leads) are placed on different places on the chest and legs. A small amount of jelly is placed on the skin under the leads. The leads are then attached to a monitor that measures the heart rhythm. It does not hurt to have an EKG done and it takes only a few minutes.

Gallium Scan

During a gallium scan, the tracer is injected into a vein in the arm. It travels through the bloodstream and into the body's tissues, primarily the bones, liver, intestine, and areas of tissue where inflammation or a buildup of white blood cells is present. It may take the tracer a few days to build up in these areas, so in most cases a scan is done at 2 days and again at 3 days after the tracer is injected. Areas where the tracer builds up in higher-than-normal amounts show up as bright or "hot" spots in the pictures. These pictures help the doctor find an infection, certain inflammatory diseases, or a tumor.

It does not hurt to have a Gallium scan done but the child may be uncomfortable from lying still for a long time. This test may take up to an hour.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A special machine (scanner) that uses powerful magnetic waves and a computer to create detailed pictures of the inside of your child's body. These images allow doctors to view the presence of certain diseases that do not show up as well on other tests.

Your child will need to lie still on a table inside the MRI machine during the test. He/she will be asked to remove anything metal such as jewelry or belt buckles because the MRI machine attracts metal. He will hear a knocking sound inside the machine during the test. You may not be able to stay in the room with your child during this test, but you and the person performing the test will be able to see, talk to and hear him/her at all times.

It does not hurt to have an MRI done but it may be uncomfortable for your child to lie still for an hour or more.

Nuclear Medicine Scans

These tests use a special camera to take pictures of specific tissues in the body after a radioactive tracer makes them visible. Each type of tissue that may be scanned (including bones, organs, glands, and blood vessels) uses a tracer, which contains a small amount of radiation.

PET scan

A test that gives the doctors pictures that show how the organs and tissues inside your child's body are actually working. A small dose of a radiotracer is injected into the vein of your child's arm. He/she will then lie down on a flat table which moves into a doughnut shaped machine. This machine, with the help of a computer, creates the three dimensional pictures that the doctor will use to find any functional problem.

It does not hurt to have a PET scan, but the child may be uncomfortable from lying still for a long time. The test may take up to an hour.

Ultrasound

An imaging technique that uses sound waves to see the internal organs. The child will lie on a bed and ultrasound gel will be applied to the area being examined. A small device called a transducer will be moved across the surface of the skin. This transducer sends and receives ultrasound signals to produce pictures of the part of the body being studied. It is a simple process with no radiation, no side effects, and no injections. This procedure is also called a sonogram.

It does not hurt to have an ultrasound test done, but there may be mild discomfort from the pressure of the transducer. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for this test.

X-ray

A picture that is taken of the inside of part of your child's body using electromagnetic radiation similar to visible light. The machine sends particles called photons which pass through the body and then a special film records the images. Your doctor may order an x-ray to check if a bone is broken or if there is fluid in the lungs. It does not hurt to have an X-ray done and though your child must lie still, it is only for a moment.

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