Medical doctors or doctors of osteopathic medicine who specialise in diagnosing and treating diseases and injuries using medical imaging techniques like X-rays, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography and MRIs are known as radiologists. They also supervise other people who perform tests like barium enemas or CT scans. While diagnostic radiologists diagnose diseases and look at test results and report findings to your other doctors, interventional radiologists treat diseases using imaging tests to guide catheters inside the body. Interventional radiologists can also place medicine directly into specific areas, such as tumours.
You will need to see a radiologist if a doctor or physician believes that there is something going on inside your body that they cannot see with the naked eye. For example, if one of your limbs is swollen or misshapen a doctor could recommend that you see a radiologist in order to get an X-ray, thus determining whether that particular bone is broken. Furthermore, if, for example, an oncologist discovers a lump on your body or suspects that your symptoms suggest you may have a form of cancer, you may be sent to a radiologist for some imaging tests. Similarly, if you are experiencing regular headaches, such as cluster headaches or migraines, you may be sent to a radiologist for a brain scan in order to determine what is causing the headaches, or if you are pregnant you may be sent to a radiologist for an ultrasound scan to check the health and sex of your baby, or simply to detect problems in the liver, heart, kidney, or the abdomen.
A radiologist can help you both in terms of diagnostics and treatment. A radiologist can interpret or read images provided by medical imaging techniques in order to determine what the particular internal problem is that the patient is suffering from. This information in the form of a report can then be passed on to a more specialised doctor and treatment can begin.
Depending on the nature of your symptoms and therefore the type of imaging techniques that you will need to have used on you to determine their cause, your experience with a radiologist could vary. For example, if your GP decides that you need an MRI scan, you can expect to have to lay still in an MRI scanner that contains powerful magnets. However, if you are sent for an X-ray or an ultrasound with a radiologist, you can expect that only the body part affected will be scanned and later interpreted by radiologists.