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Computed Tomography (CT) Scan for Cancer

This examination is also known as a computed tomography scan, CT scan, CAT scan, or spiral or helical CT scan.

A CT scan can aid in the detection of cancer and reveal details such as the form and size of a tumor. CT scans are often performed as an outpatient treatment. The scan is non-invasive and takes between 10 and 30 minutes.

What shows by CT:

CT scans depict a cross-section of the body in a slice. Standard x-rays do not reveal your bones, organs, or soft tissues, as well as this picture, does.

CT scans can reveal the shape, size, and location of a tumor. They can even expose the blood arteries that nourish the tumor without cutting the patient.

CT scans are frequently used by doctors to guide a needle through a tiny bit of tissue. A CT-guided biopsy is what it’s termed. CT scans can also be used to guide needles into tumors for cancer therapies like radiofrequency ablation (RFA), which utilizes heat to kill malignancies.


CT scans are similar to normal x-ray examinations in several ways. An x-ray test, on the other hand, uses a single angle to target a wide beam of radiation. A computed tomography scan creates a sequence of images from various angles using a pencil-thin beam. The data from each viewpoint is sent into a computer, which generates a black-and-white image of a slice of a specific part of the body, similar to looking at a single slice of bread.

To achieve a sharper view, certain contrast materials might be utilized. These can be ingested as a liquid, injected into a vein, or enigmatized into the bowels through the rectum.

The equipment can provide a 3-dimensional (3-D) view by stacking CT image slices on top of one another. On a computer screen, you may rotate the 3-D image to see it from different perspectives.

In a procedure called virtual endoscopy, doctors are now taking computed tomography imaging one step further. They can see inside organs like the lungs (virtual bronchoscopy) and the colon (virtual colonoscopy or CT colonography) without putting scopes into the body. On the computer screen, the 3-D CT scans are organized in a black-and-white perspective. This appears to be an endoscopy in progress.

How much time does it take?

Depending on whatever region of the body is being examined, a computed tomography scan might take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. It also depends on how much of your body the physicians want to examine, as well as whether or not contrast dye is utilized. It takes longer to get into position and apply the contrast dye than it does to snap the photographs. You may be asked to wait after the test while the images are reviewed to ensure that they are clear and show everybody component. More photos may be required if this is not the case.

Some patients have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye. The following are examples of possible reactions:

  • Rash
  • Nausea
  • Wheezing
  • Breathing problems
  • Itching or swelling of the face that lasts up to an hour

These symptoms are generally minor and go away on their own. However, they can occasionally be a symptom of a more serious response that requires medical attention. If you observe any changes after receiving the contrast dye, notify the radiological technician and your health care team.

Rarely, a serious allergic response might occur, resulting in low blood pressure or breathing difficulties. This has to be taken care of right soon.

The IV contrast dye might potentially harm your kidneys.

This is uncommon, and it occurs more frequently in those whose kidneys are already failing. If you need a contrast dye scan, your doctor may order a blood test to assess your kidney function first. Extra fluids or medications may be given through an IV to assist your kidneys in safely eliminating the dye.

Is there anything more I should know about this test?

  • Although a CT scan is frequently referred to as a “slice” or “cross-section,” it does not entail any cutting.
  • The quantity of radiation received during a CT scan is significantly more than that received during a conventional x-ray.
  • People who are extremely obese may have difficulty fitting inside a computed tomography scanner.
  • If you have any allergies or are sensitive to iodine, shellfish, or contrast dyes, notify your doctor.
  • If you think you might be pregnant or are nursing, tell your doctor.
  • Computed tomography scan can be as much as ten times the cost of a conventional x-ray. Before you undergo this test, check to see whether your health insurance will cover it.


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