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X-rays  ::  Barium Studies  ::  Ultrasound  ::  CT Scan  ::  MRI


If your doctor has scheduled you to have an X-ray exam, it is important that you understand why you have been asked to undergo this test and what steps are needed for a proper preparation.

A chest X-ray and X-rays of the bones are often taken to check your general health and see if there has been any spread of the cancer to other parts of the body.

Barium Studies

The organs of the digestive system don't show up on X-ray unless they are 'outlined' by barium meal. This is a medical test used to examine the condition of the digestive tract using a heavy, white, radio-opaque powder called barium sulfate. This powder is usually flavoured and mixed with a liquid which is then swallowed by the patient. The mixture passes quickly into the digestive tract and its progress is followed by taking X-rays over different periods of time, depending on which part of the digestive tract the doctor wants to observe.

Barium meal is a test that allows your doctor to view the upper part of your bowel, using a white fluid called barium to outline the shape of the throat and stomach, and a fizzy drink to open up the walls of the stomach.

A barium swallow involves X-ray examination of the esophagus, and is used to help diagnose swallowing or reflux problems.

A barium meal-barium swallow test -is ordered for people who are having trouble swallowing, or having unexplained pain or vomiting. It provides useful information about the condition of your gullet and stomach, and can make or confirm a diagnosis.

A similar examination of the large intestine, or colon, is called a Barium enema, or Lower GI. Of course, in this instance, the barium is not swallowed, but is given rectally as an enema - thus the more common name, Barium Enema. This examination takes less than an hour and requires fasting as well as an unpleasant laxative and dietary preparation the day or two before. Prep instructions vary and will be provided and be sure to follow them exactly so the test need not be repeated.


Ultrasound (US) imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, is a method of obtaining images of internal organs by sending high-frequency sound waves into the body. The reflected soundwaves' echoes are recorded and displayed as a real-time, visual image. No ionizing radiation (X-ray) is involved in ultrasound imaging.

Common uses of Ultrasound

Ultrasound imaging is used extensively for evaluating the kidneys, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, and blood vessels of the abdomen. Because it provides real time images, it can also be used to:

  • A sample of cells (biopsy) can be taken at the same time for examination under the microscope by a pathologist
  • Help a physician determine the source of many abdominal pains, such as stones in the gall bladder or kidney, or an inflamed appendix
  • Help identify the cause for enlargement of an abdominal organ e.g., liver and spleen

Doppler ultrasound is a special type of ultrasound study that examines major blood vessels. These images can help the physician to see and evaluate:

  • Blockages to blood flow, such as clots
  • Build-up of plaque inside the vessel
  • Congenital malformation

CT Scan (CAT scan)

CT SCAN is basically an X-ray tube that rotates in a circle around the patient and takes a series of pictures as it rotates. The multiple X-ray pictures are reconstructed by a computer in axial slice images at different levels. Each level can be examined separately.

A CT scan may show if the cancer has spread beyond the liver or to other parts of the body such as the lymph nodes.

The scan takes from 10-30 minutes. You may be given a drink or injection of a dye, which allows particular areas to be seen more clearly. For a few minutes, this may make you feel hot all over. If you are allergic to iodine or have asthma you could have a more serious reaction to the injection, so it is important to let your doctor know beforehand.

You will probably be able to go home as soon as the scan is over.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI or NMR scan)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive imaging technique. This test is similar to a CT scan but uses magnetism instead of X-rays to build up cross-sectional pictures of your body. It is used to view organs, soft-tissue, bone, and other internal body structures. In an abdominal MRI, the person's body is exposed to radio waves while in a magnetic field. Cross-sectional pictures of the abdomen are produced by energy emitted from hydrogen atoms in the body's cells.

An individual is not exposed to harmful radiation during this test.

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Monash University Glen Iris Private ANZGOSA - Australia & New Zealand Gastro Oesophageal Surgery Association Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Australia and New Zealand Hepatic, Pancreatic and Biliary Association Incorporated GESA - Gastroenterological Society of Australia

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