WHAT IS MEDICAL IMAGING?
Medical imaging uses the principles of physics, chemistry, and biology to find new ways of identifying the inside of the human body. In the context of cancer, medical imaging helps doctors find changes in the body that are typical of cancer progression. In addition to developing these systems, medical imaging engineers focus on finding chemical compounds that behave differently in healthy and diseased tissue. For example, radioactive chemical compounds called tracers can be tracked by an imaging technique called positron emission tomography (PET), which visualizes and can show how these compounds break down over time. Tracers that behave differently in healthy and in specific diseased tissue can better help doctors (radiologists) identify tumors and discover better treatment options for patients.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO WORK IN MEDICAL IMAGING?
Medical imaging includes a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals such as doctors (including radiologists), technologists, medical physicists, biomedical engineers, physicians, and nurses. As such, medical imaging professionals come from diverse academic backgrounds. Students with bachelor’s degrees in applied sciences, such as engineering, physics, biology, or computer science may excel in this field. Most of these students can expand their bachelor’s degree with an internship at a medical imaging company or research lab. There are also many opportunities for graduate research in medical imaging leading to a Master’s or PhD degree in a specialized medical imaging field. This diverse background allows biomedical engineers to come up with new multidisciplinary ideas to create systems and devices that improve the detection and treatment of cancer and other diseases.
WHERE IS THE FIELD OF MEDICAL IMAGING HEADING?
Advances in medical imaging often start by discovering or improving imaging systems for use in either research or clinical practice. With the ever-progressing field of data science and computer analysis, and the complexity of tasks that can be performed by computers, an emerging field is using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the detection and diagnosis of cancer – check out Let’s Talk: Machine Learning. Physicians can learn more information about their patient’s diseases and determine appropriate treatment plans by using state-of-the-art computer software designed for medical imaging. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are other promising developments in this field as they allow physicians to visualize cancerous tumours in three-dimensions for more effective treatment planning.