How Can The Hida Scan Help Detect Cancer?

A HIDA scan, also known as hepatobiliary scintigraphy or cholescintigraphy, is an imaging test that doctors conduct to the small intestine, bile ducts, gallbladder, and liver. During the scan, the doctor injects a radioactive tracer into a patient’s vein. This imaging test uses a special camera to take pictures and track the movement of the tracer. The camera then transmits photographs onto a computer screen for diagnosis and observation. 

HIDA is one of the tests performed to detect cancer in several body organs, including gallbladder cancer and pancreatic cancer. Take an in-depth look at how the HIDA scan helps detect cancer below.

Look For Suspicious Areas in the Body Organs

The first indicators of cancer are areas in the body that have abnormalities. With the use of imaging tests like HIDA, a specialist can take a closer look at the body organs like gallbladder and liver and look for tenderness, lumps, or fluid build-up. HIDA also helps physicians check if a particular area is painful for the patient. This scanning procedure also uncovers the cause if there is yellowish coloration in the eyes and skin that may indicate jaundice.

Here are some more things that HIDA may find out in the areas of body organs:

  • Since cancer may spread to lymph nodes, like in the case of gallbladder cancer, HIDA checks if lumps beneath the skin are present. HIDA is also capable of checking lymph nodes in the other locations.
  • HIDA scan also helps diagnose liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and small intestine for inflammation, blockages that may also result in cancer.
  • Your physician may also require a HIDA scan to measure the bile release rate from your gallbladder.

Take a Sample from a Suspicious Area for Testing

Once the doctor identifies a suspicious area in the body organs of a person, taking of the sample follows for further and more detailed examination. The HIDA scan, with its special camera, helps in guiding the specialist to collect the right samples for more accurate testing results. The photographs that come from the HIDA scan are used in consulting radiologists to interpret results and correlate with the results of the other tests or procedures.

Learn How Far the Cancer Cells Has Spread

Cancer quickly spreads, so it is essential to track how far they have gone and for appropriate medications to be given to patients. Imaging tests like the HIDA scan can help specialists learn which organs are affected and the particular areas covered by cancer, including how wide the abnormalities have spread in these areas. This is essential to monitor all affected regions, and samples from each area are collected for more tests and confirm a diagnosis.

Make Treatment Decisions for Cancer

Treatment decisions are only given if enough tests were administered and once the specialists confirm the diagnosis. The HIDA scan is part of a series of examinations aimed at determining the underlying reasons behind suspicious areas of the body organs like the small intestine, bile ducts, gallbladder, pancreas, and liver. Since the HIDA scan helps identify which particular regions or organs of the body are affected, it allows the doctor to prescribe more specific treatments for better results.

In addition to making treatment decisions, the HIDA scan also helps with the following:

  • Find out if the treatment given is producing results or working. If not, the specialist may take a different approach or an entirely different treatment procedure.
  • Monitor cancer after treatment and look for signs that it is coming back. Cancer is a perilous disease and needs monitoring even after treatment due to multiple cases of cancer coming back to patients after just a few months or years.

Aside from direct treatments, your doctor can also prescribe supplemental medication like probiotics to improve the immune system and avoid infections.

Now that you already know how the HIDA scan works and how it can contribute to detecting cancer, you can look through some more questions you may have in mind about this test. Check some of the frequently asked questions below.

How to prepare for a HIDA scan?

The doctor may ask the following from you as part of your preparation for a HIDA scan:

  • Undergo fasting for a few numbers of hours: Although the numbers of hours vary depending on the recommendations given, it usually takes two or more hours before the test. Does it have to be a complete fast? No, since you may be allowed to consume clear liquids.
  • Delay medication intake: Are you taking some medications? If you are, then you may have to delay taking them to prepare for a HIDA scan. Some medications interfere with the test, so it would be better to tell your doctor ahead about any medication you are currently taking.
  • Take medications for scan enhancement: To help your specialist or the radiologist to interpret the HIDA scan results, you may be prescribed to take some enhancement medications, depending on the reason why you’re undergoing the scan. The medication for scan enhancement may be required for you to take a few days before the test. It is also possible that a medication infusion comes together with the radioactive tracer before or during the scan.

What Happens after Test?

You must monitor your recovery after the scan and report to your physician any problem that may arise. Here are some of the things that you can do to prevent complications after the test:

  • Make sure to consult your doctor first before resuming your medications, diet, and regular activity.
  • To clear the tracer drug from your body, drink additional fluids for the next 48 hours.
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly and make sure to flush the toilet twice for a few days after the test.
  • Keep the site of injection protected, dry, and clean. Also, check if there are signs of infection.


A HIDA scan is a relevant and useful test to examine the conditions of the small intestine, bile ducts, gallbladder, and the liver. A radioactive chemical known as a tracer is injected into your body, and the specialist tracks it as it moves through your bile system. Since it can take images of your liver and other organs, it can help determine abnormalities and detect cancer diseases like gallbladder cancer, small intestine cancer, and liver cancer.

About Joao Vasconcelos

Joao is a health and fitness enthusiast and creator of one of the leading fitness blogs in Brazil. With a unique focus on weight loss, Joao is an advocate of functional fitness training and has his own line of natural weight loss juices.

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