CT stands for Computed Tomography (sometimes called CAT scan) and is a type of X-ray which is able to take detailed pictures from inside the body.
One CT scan usually requires only very moderate exposure to X-rays. However, it is not a good idea to have an X-ray if you are pregnant. If there is any chance that you are pregnant, you must tell the X-ray department when you book your appointment or when you arrive for your examination.
Do I need to have an injection?
Sometimes. CT is used to look at areas where no natural contrast of light and shade exists. In that case the radiologist will give you an injection of a dye, called a contrast medium, usually containing iodine. This has the effect of creating an artificial contrast, which clearly shows up the area your doctor wants to investigate for damage or disease.
Occasionally, you will also be asked to drink something to help contrast your stomach and the rest of your gut.
Sometimes several scans will be taken before the contrast medium is injected, and then further scans are taken after the injection.
Is it painful?
You will feel nothing from the scan itself. If the radiologist needs to use a contrast medium, he will explain to you what is involved.
Who does the scan?
The person who carries out the scan is called a radiographer. He or she will explain the process to you and show you how to position yourself . The radiologist will select the right contrast medium and give you your injection, if necessary.
It is very important that you stay still for the whole time whilst the pictures are being taken. The radiographer will also make sure that you are comfortable afterwards and ready to go home.
Please do not ask the radiographer if your scan is good or bad - that is not the radiographer's job. Your scan will be examined by the radiologist, who will interpret the 'pictures' and send a report to your doctor. That is why you have to wait a few days for the results.
Further general information Your doctors and specialist nurses are in an ideal position to give you relevant information on your disease and treatment as they know your individual circumstances. Cancerbackup has a help line (0808 800 1234) and a prize winning video available in English, Italian, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati & Hindi explaining Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy. Cancernet.co.uk has over 500 pages describing cancer, its management, practical tips and tool which patients, their carers and their doctors have found helpful during the cancer journey.