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Diagnostic Exams

Please note that what follows below is general information about diagnostic exams. Your physician may recommend or schedule one of the following exams based upon your individual symptoms. If you have any questions, please see your physician.


Molecular Breast Imaging

Mercy Medical Center is the first in Iowa to provide Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI) — a new, FDA-cleared technology used for breast imaging as an adjunct to mammography.

MBI identifies tumors in dense breast tissue that are often not visible with X-ray-based analog or digital mammography. Radioactive isotope (commonly used for cardiac imaging) is injected in the patient and provides high-resolution images to allow the most accurate diagnoses.

Unlike mammography, this exam is not compromised by dense breast tissue (affecting 40% of all women and increasing breast cancer risk 4 to 6 times), which is the most limiting factor with mammography.

MBI also offers little to no pressure or discomfort to the patient as compared to mammography. Learn more about MBI.

If the inability to pay prevents you or someone you know from seeking breast-care services, learn more about the Especially for You® Fund. It could be life-saving.

Digital Mammogram

Reviewing a mammogram.A digital mammogram machine uses compression and X-rays to image your breast, but instead of capturing the image on film as with traditional mammography, the image is captured to a computer as a digital image file.

Learn about walk-in mammograms at Mercy Medical Center.

If the inability to pay prevents you or someone you know from seeking breast-care services, learn more about the Especially for You® Fund. It could be life-saving.


A colonoscopy lets the physician look inside your entire large intestine, from the lowest part, the rectum, through the colon to the lower end of the small intestine. The procedure is used to look for early signs of cancer in the colon and rectum. It is also used to diagnose the causes of unexplained changes in bowel habits. Colonoscopy enables the physician to see inflamed tissue, abnormal growths, ulcers and bleeding. See how a colonoscopy works here.


Bronchoscopy is a procedure that allows your doctor to look at your airway through a thin viewing instrument called a bronchoscope. During a bronchoscopy, your doctor will examine your throat, larynx, trachea and lower airways. Bronchoscopy may be done to diagnose problems with the airway, the lungs or lymph nodes in the chest, or to treat problems such as an object or growth in the airway.

  • Electromagnetic Navigation Bronchoscopy® (ENB) - SuperDimension i•Logic™ provides minimally invasive access to lesions deep in the lungs as well as mediastinal lymph nodes. By extending the reach of conventional bronchoscopes, the i•Logic System enables physicians to diagnose benign and malignant lung lesions, which enhances treatment decisions and avoids the need for higher-risk procedures.
  • Endobronchial Ultrasound (EBUS) guided biopsy is a type of bronchoscopy that uses a flexible bronchoscope with a tiny ultrasound device on the tip. The ultrasound guides the physician to see through the airway walls to locate enlarged lymph nodes or masses. A thin needle can be passed through the scope to obtain a biopsy sample.

CT Scan (Computed Axial Tomography Scan)

A CT or CAT scan uses low-energy X-rays and computers to create a cross-sectional image of your body. It provides much more information than a basic X-ray.

A CT scan is performed while you lie on a long table that slides into a large circular opening in the imaging machine. The scanner will rotate around you, emitting X-rays and a buzzing noise. Sometimes an injection of a contrast agent is given to help make the image clearer for the doctor. You will be able to speak to the technologist while you are in the machine. The scan may take 15-30 minutes. Alert your doctor if you are pregnant or allergic to iodine.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

An MRI machine creates an image of the body using a large magnet. You will lie on a table that slides into the MRI machine. You will not feel the magnetic field, but you will hear some noise. The procedure takes typically from 45-60 minutes, and you will be able to speak to the MRI technologist the entire time.

Hall-Perrine Cancer Center uses the 3Tesla (3T) MRI system, which is the strongest magnet approved by the FDA. The 3T has twice the magnetic strength of the more common 1.5 Tesla systems. The extra strength allows doctors to assess the human body in ways not previously possible and increases patient comfort.

Lung Cancer Screening

A simple, safe screening and education for long-term, heavy smokers aged 55 to 77.

  • Covered by Medicare and most private insurances
  • Low-dose CT chest screening exam
  • Lung cancer risk assessment
  • Tobacco cessation, education and healthy lifestyle modification provided by a Mayo-trained Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist

Tests and assessments are done in one location at Mercy. Call (319) 389-5165 to speak to our Lung Center Navigator to find out if you qualify.


The PET/CT scan is an advanced tool for diagnosing or screening for cancer. It combines these two procedures into one to detect cancer efficiently as well as how far it has spread and if current treatments are proving to be effective. The scanner combines PET and CT scanner technology to increase diagnostic capabilities and improve patient care with faster scan times and higher-quality images.

The highly sensitive PET scan detects the metabolic signal of actively growing cancer cells in the body and the CT scan provides a detailed picture of the internal anatomy that reveals the location, size and shape of abnormal cancerous growths.


A Single-Photon Emission Computerized Tomography (SPECT) scan lets your doctor analyze the function of some of your internal organs. SPECT scan is a type of nuclear imaging test, which means it uses a radioactive substance and a special camera to create 3-D pictures. While imaging tests such as X-rays can show what the structures inside your body look like, a SPECT scan produces images that show how your organs work. For instance, a SPECT scan can show how blood flows to your heart or what areas of your brain are more active or less active.


An ultrasound machine uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create pictures of your body. A special gel is put on the skin where you are to be scanned to help conduct the sound. Then, the technologist guides a sensor want across the skin that sends the sound waves throughout the area. Ultrasound may be used externally or internally in the rectal or vaginal areas, depending on area to be scanned. You will not feel or hear the high-frequency sounds the ultrasound machine makes. The images appear on a TV screen and are recorded. Depending on the area to be scanned, you may be asked to drink lots of water and then wait to urinate until after the exam; this helps to improve the image.

Have A Question?

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Courageous Stories

Suzanne Staab

Suzanne's Story

In keeping with tradition at Hall-Perrine, Suzanne Staab – with family, friends and Mercy staff by her side – rings a bell to signify the end of her cancer treatment. Watch her story.

To discuss treatments call (319) 365-HOPE (4673)