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CT or MRI which is better?


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Hi everyone..

I've been having some "issues" not feeling well at the moment. Anyway, at the ER the other night the doc decided to do a brain ct scan to check for masses and bleeds. I was in a lot of pain, vomiting etc. It's actually the first brain CT I've had done since my pneumonectomy.. let's just say I haven't been good at my follow-ups. It's just something I'm not able to handle anymore. However, at 3:00am when your head is going to explode I was willing to do about anything.

Anyway, the doc said "no masses or brain bleeds". which is great however I'm still having problems. During the last week or so my best friend has also been having some headaches and other issues. She had a brain MRI (her doc doesn't use CT scans). She has just now been diagnosed with MS. Her doctor told her that CT's tend to miss things. MRI's are better. Even during my cancer treatment I always had CT's, except for the PET scan.. never had an MRI.

Anyone know the difference between the two? Does it really depend on what they are looking for as to which they use. I guess I'm just curious and given that we have SOME similar symptoms I'd like to have the peace of mind that my CT would have shown something if anything would have been there at all.

((((sigh)))) it's always something.


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I'm not 100% sure, but I think I remember my doc telling me that CAT scans are more for organs and MRIs are more for bony spots. I actually have had both for my head - MRI and CT scan. The last one was a CT scan because of terrible headaches I was having which thankfully was negative. Just a thought - have you had your BP checked lately. When mine was out of control my headaches were absolutely horrendous.

Good luck - I know how we all worry over everything. Hope you are feeling better real soon.

Hugs - Patti B

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No expert here, Tami, but I've read that for the brain, MRI is the way to go. Now I cannot give you the medical reasoning, but I've never had a CT of the brain ~ always MRI.

Sorry you're having some issues. May I 'gently' suggest you get back on the followup regime? For now, I'd contact my onc, or whoever it is who has followed you in the past, and request an MRI. Then hopefully, you will be able to rule anything up there OUT for now. Be sure to let us know what you discover.

And just to ley you know, Tami........think of you often, and hope other 'things' are moving in the right direction.


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Hi, Tami:

According to Dr. West at OncTalk, "There is little to no question that head MRIs are superior to CT scans in detecting brain metastases. MRI scans detect a greater number of lesions and define the location more readily, and they are also better at detecting spread to the meninges, the lining around the brain (and spinal cord)." Here's the full article, and there are a number of other articles on OncTalk that you might find helpful:




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Tami: I know my oncologist wanted to do an MRI when she felt the need to check for a bleed(s) from Avastin. I protested because of the expense and no insurance so she went with a CT. My guess is expense is probably the reason for the CTs at ERs so I'd go with the group and get an MRI.

In the meantime, I know it must be really scary. It may help you relax a little to know that years ago before I went through allergy testing, I would get what they later called "migraine intensive" sinus/allergy headaches that would cause me to vomit. When they got more frequent is when I finally went for treatment. It hasn't happened again now for years. Take notice if this occurs when you are in a particular environment or after you have a particular food or drink.

Good luck and hope you get back into follow-ups.

Judy in Key West

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Dear Tami,

Last year, Bill had a CT scan of the brain which denoted a single met to midbrain.

He had never had any previous symptoms except for an involuntary "flutter" in a muscle in his back. He has never been dizzy, has never had headaches, nor any other untoward effect.

A couple of weeks ago, he had a follow up scan of head and neck. It was to assess shrinkage from the chemo he is receiving.

I questioned the oncologist related to a statement I read on the scan report, about an area, possible in back of the sinuses.

I asked if it were brain related. He said, "Possibly." I asked him which was better, a CT or an MRI. He said, "MRI."

An MRI is scheduled for April 8. Holding steady until we know more.

The answer from Bill's oncologist told me that an MRI was superior to CT for the brain.

I'm sure you will feel much better having received attention by follow-ups, Tami. We discovered that vigilance is the name of the game.

Headaches do not mean brain mets, necessarily, but it is best to check these things out, so that we can keep on top of things.

Wishing you all the best, Tami. Let us know how things are going?



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