Now, Houston scientists have come up with something better than 3D -- 5-dimensional images, and they plan to use the 5D scans in surgeries very soon.
For patients, they say it means a safer surgery and can mean reassurance.
"There's always that fear that it could come back," Carolina Gonzales said.
Gonzales had been living with that fear that she found ovarian cancer at age 19.
"I'm going to just live my life the best I can, hoping it's not there," she said.
Then in a high-tech room called Plato's Cave, she saw 5-dimensional pictures of her body before and after cancer treatment.
"You can see how big this was in her pelvic abdominal area," Methodist Radiologist Dr. Brian Butler said.
"I looked like I was six months pregnant; just, my belly was so big!" Gonzales said.
The grapefruit-sized ovarian tumor was removed. Gonzales had radiation, chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. Her treatment ended this summer.
"When you leave here today you'll that know there's no cancer," Dr. Butler told her.
And she can see there's no tumor and no sign of stray cancer cells.
"I'm glad I got to see that there is nothing there," Gonzales said.
The reassurance comes through Plato's Cave, which will soon be used in Methodist operating rooms. It's a combination of CT, PET and MRI scans which can guide surgeons through the body. They'll see your body not in three dimensions but four dimensions (the heart beating and lungs moving), then five dimensions.
"Five dimensions would be blood flow through an artery; you could see the blood flow going through the heart," Dr. Butler said.
It's high-tech medicine but it's not about the toys, it's about people like Gonzales.
The military is looking at the possibility of dropping a Plato's Cave into a war zone to scan wounded soldiers. And a patient's data could be sent anywhere in the world for real-time second opinions.