NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Stage IV Breast Cancer, Version 1.2014
Imaging tests make pictures of the insides of your
body. The pictures can show how far the cancer
has spread. Getting an imaging test is often easy.
Depending on the test, you may need to stop taking
some medicines, stop eating and drinking for a few
hours, and remove metal objects from your body.
Chest diagnostic CT
A CT (
omography) of your chest is
recommended. This test takes many x-rays from
different angles to make detailed pictures. Before the
test, a contrast dye that makes the pictures clearer
may be injected into your vein. The dye may cause
you to feel flushed or get hives. Rarely, serious
allergic reactions occur. Tell your doctors if you have
had bad reactions before. During the CT scan, you
will need to lie face up on a table that moves through
the CT machine.
See Figure 3.
maging) is very useful for
viewing the brain. You may have an MRI if you have
symptoms that suggest the cancer has spread to the
brain. Symptoms of cancer in the brain include chronic
headaches, seizures, loss of balance, difficulty walking,
speech problems, changes in vision, weakness on one
side of the body, and personality changes.
An MRI uses radio waves and powerful magnets to
make pictures. Like CT, contrast may be used. You
will need to lie face up on a table. A device will be put
around your head to keep it still. The table will then be
moved so that your head is inside the MRI machine.
The scan is completed in several minutes.
Abdominal/pelvic diagnostic scans
CT and MRI scans can be used to see the insides
of your abdomen. It is recommended that pictures of
your abdomen be taken with one of these scans. Your
doctor may also recommend a scan of your pelvis, too.
A bone scan can be used to see if the cancer has
spread to your bones. For this scan, a radiotracer
will be injected into your vein. The most common
radiotracer used for bone scans is technetium. You
will need to wait about 3 hours for the radiotracer to
enter your bones. Next, a special camera will be used
to take pictures while you lie still on a table. It takes
45 to 60 minutes to complete the pictures. Areas of
bone damage use more radiotracer than healthy bone
and thus appear as bright spots in the pictures. Bone
damage can be caused by cancer as well as by other
Figure 3. CT machine