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What is heterogeneous abnormal marrow signal?

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Heterogeneous abnormal marrow signal is what oncologists look for on a magnetic resonance image of a patient's bone as a possible indication of a malignancy, says the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Abnormal bone marrow findings on an MRI should not be ignored.

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Magnetic resonance imaging has contributed to the detection and assessment of bone marrow malignancies, notes an article in Annals of Oncology. Two types of equipment commonly used are the static MRI and the dynamic MRI. Each of these has advantages and disadvantages in taking pictures of different types of bone marrow. Dynamic magnetic resonance imaging can be used to distinguish between normal and malignant bone marrow. It may identify malignant marrow growth in patients with negative static MRIs and serve as a diagnostic and prognostic tool for patients with malignancies.

Another way doctors can get information about bone marrow is with a biopsy, according to Dr. Indranil Mallick for About.com. Normal bone marrow consists of cells that become red cells, white cells and platelets. If the proportion of these cells is abnormal, it may be a sign of a disorder. Lymphomas and other cancers can spread to bone marrow and other organs, which is a sign of metastatic disease. Doctors can use a bone marrow biopsy test to identify cancer cells and diagnose a metastasis.

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