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Imaging

Imaging has become the cornerstone of modern cancer treatment. With advances in imaging technology, treatment for cancer patients is far more accurate and less invasive than in comparison to only a few years ago. Imaging devices and procedures now aid physicians in the early screening, diagnosing and staging of cancer. This gives you and a loved one the best chances at catching the disease when it is most treatable.

The Cancer Center at Torrance Memorial gives patients in the South Bay community access to some of the most sophisticated imaging technology available.

Advanced Imaging, Outstanding Treatment

While imaging is not a treatment for cancer, the many applications of imaging technology aid your cancer care team to determine the best possible treatment. The advanced imaging systems available at Torrance Memorial are employed routinely throughout your entire personalized treatment plan to assess the effectiveness of the treatments you are receiving.

The following are some applications imaging available from the Cancer Center:

Screening

Imaging is used to help detect cancer when outward symptoms may not be visible. The most familiar use of imaging in screening procedures may be mammograms to detect breast cancer, though imagining technology is used to screen for some other cancers. In addition to routine screening, e.g., yearly mammogram for women over age 40, your physician might also order a cancer screening if you are in a higher risk group for cancer or exhibit symptoms which indicate the possibly presence of cancer.

Diagnosis and Staging

Torrance Memorial uses imaging technology extensively in the diagnosis of cancer. In the case of biopsies - particularly core-needle biopsies - imaging technology is used to insure accuracy and limit invasiveness. If you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, imaging can be used to find the precise location of the tumor in your body, the extent of the cancer and if it has metastasized to other parts of the body. Knowing the size and location of cancer in the body helps the treatment team determine the cancer's stage, or extent of disease in the body, and this information helps the treatment team determine the most appropriate and most effective treatment for your particular cancer.

Guiding Treatment

During surgical procedures or radiation therapy, imaging technology is used to focus treatment directly to a cancer site. In the case of surgery, this may involve several imaging procedures prior to surgery. These steps insure the least amount of damage to surrounding tissues during a procedure. Similarly, imaging devices are often used in the application of radiation therapy. Imaging allows radiation therapists to focus a beam of radiation on a tumor while sparing exposure to surrounding tissues.

Treatment Effectiveness

Following surgery and during other treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, imaging procedures help your cancer care team assess the progress and effectiveness of your treatment, including how much cancer it has eliminated.

Monitoring

Once you or a family member has defeated cancer and moved into remission, imaging is used regularly to monitor your health and assure you remain cancer free. Your team at Torrance Memorial will guide you through a schedule of imaging procedures over the years following your cancer, remaining your partner in continued health.

Graziadio Radiology Center & Polak Imaging Pavilion

Home to highly advanced imaging technology, the Graziadio Radiology Center and Polak Imaging Pavilion at Torrance Memorial provides your cancer care team with the tools to best screen for, diagnosis and treat the disease.

  • Both facilities are operated by variety of expert radiologists, technologists, nurses and staff. As a crucial part of your cancer care team, each member is specifically trained in the devices and procedures to assure accuracy and safety.
  • The Graziadio Radiology Center is located on the ground floor adjacent the medical center's Emergency Department. A reception area and seating is available for patients and visitors awaiting an outpatient test or procedure. Parking is available in the East Parking Structure accessible from Lomita Boulevard.
  • The Polak Imaging Pavilion houses many of the advanced imaging devices available for cancer screening and treatment - most especially the Vasek & Anna Maria Polak Breast Diagnostic Center dedicated to woman's health. Parking is available in the lot accessible from Skypark Drive.

Breast Diagnostic Center

The Vasek & Anna Maria Polak Breast Diagnostic Center at Torrance Memorial has taken a leadership role in the care of women's health since 1986 with its service to the South Bay community and beyond. Designed for the specific needs and comfort of women, the Breast Diagnostic Center and satellite offices serving Carson, Manhattan Beach, and Rolling Hills Estates are staffed with compassionate experts trained specifically in breast health and breast cancer diagnosis. The Breast Diagnostic Center also offers osteoporosis screening.

Imaging Systems and Procedures

Depending on what type of cancer you are being screened or treated for, there exist a number of different imaging technologies for your cancer care team may use. The Cancer Center offers the several of the most advanced imaging systems and procedures available.

X-ray

The most familiar type of imaging, x-rays are used for more than checking broken bones. This foundation imaging technology is still used in a range of applications to screen for and diagnose cancer. Most commonly, low-dose x-rays are employed in mammography for breast cancer screening. Chest x-rays are also commonly used to see if cancer has spread to the lungs. Formerly produced as film, these images - known as radiographs - are now processed digitally and viewed on a computer, which results in a clearer image, less material wastage and easier duplication of images for transport.

CT Scan

An advanced x-ray procedure, CT scans give radiologists and other members of your cancer care team a three-dimensional view of a suspected tumor location. Known technically as computed tomography, CT scans work by taking numerous cross sectional images of your body. These images - called "slices" - are merged and enhanced by a computer to produce a three-dimensional image. This highly detailed view of the body's internal tissues and structures gives your physicians valuable insight into how a tumor is situated, how far it has spread, and the treatment options available. CT scans are very effective at imaging the inside of the chest, abdomen and pelvis. CT scans can be done without contrast material, or with IV and/or oral contrast material, depending on the type of cancer and location of the tumor in the body.

PET Scan

Taking the practice of radiology a step further, a PET scan creates a live computer model of chemical changes taking place in tissue. Know technically as a positron emission tomography scan, PET scans use a small glucose-based radioactive IV injection that is absorbed by a tumor. During a 45-60 minutes procedure where a patient must lay very still, the PET scanning device travels the length of your body several times, creating a live study of the tissues and possible tumor. Since tumor cells are more metabolically active than normal tissue, the malignant tissue tends to take up more of the glucose injection, so cancerous cells demonstrate an enhanced appearance on the image, which is three dimensional. The result is information on the size, location and spread of a tumor.

PET/CT

Utilizing sophisticated computer software, the latest version of CT and PET scanning combines and cross-references the images to produce an image that is even more detailed than either image performed independently.

MRI

Using a field of magnetic and radio waves, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) gives your cancer care team a three-dimensional image of the body, including soft tissues and suspected tumors. MRI technology produces very detailed images and doesn't use radiation in the traditional sense. MRI technology is used by the Cancer Center at Torrance Memorial for screening, guidance during biopsy and to evaluate the progress of treatment. Because MRI uses magnetic energy, patients with a cardiac pacemaker cannot have this type of scan. Also, because MRI uses an IV injection of contrast material that is removed through the kidneys, patients with impaired kidney function may not be able to undergo MRI. MRI is performed with the patient laying inside a slender metal "tube," just big enough to surround the body. Although the ends of the tube are open, some patients experience a sense of claustrophobia. Torrance Memorial also has an open MRI machine but the image that is produced is somewhat less detailed compared to a closed MRI.

Ultrasound

Using ultra high frequency sound waves, ultrasound offers patients a noninvasive imaging technique to screen for and diagnose cancer. The frequencies produced by ultrasound devices reflect off of internal tissues, which produce computer images with great detail. Your cancer care team may use ultrasound during screening, as a guide during biopsy or during treatment to assess effectiveness of therapy.

Digital Mammography

Used to screen women for breast cancer, digital mammograms employ low-dose x-rays to find abnormalities in the breast long before they are large enough to be felt. With consistent screening, a radiologist is able to compare a patient's results with prior breast imaging records to find cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages. All the mammography machines at the Vasek & Anna Maria Polak Breast Diagnostic Centers utilize digital technology which produces a much clearer and more detailed breast image compared to older film technology.

As breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, and the risk for the disease rises with age, it is recommended all women over the age of 40 receive a yearly mammogram.

For more information regarding the use of digital mammography in screening for breast cancer, please visit the Torrance Memorial Breast Diagnostic Center.