During treatment for cancer, your oncologist will rely on several diagnostic tools to monitor the progress of the disease and the effect the treatment is having on it. One of the most commonly used tools is a CT scan. If your doctor has ordered a scan, here is what you need to know about it:
What Can You Expect?
To perform the CT scan, a technician will place you on a movable table. During the scan, you will need to remain as still as possible. Movement can sometimes cloud the results and lead to the need for additional testing.
It is not uncommon to experience some anxiety during the scan. After you are positioned on the movable table, you will be moved into the narrow tunnel of the scanner. You will hear various noises during scanning, including clicking and buzzing noises.
The technician will ask you to hold your breath at several points during the exam to help minimize movement. The time that the test takes can vary based on which images your oncologist has requested. If the radiologist is also performing a biopsy at the time of the scan, this can lengthen the time.
What Should You Do Before the Scan?
There are several steps you can take to prepare for the CT scan. Your oncologist will likely ask you to limit your diet in the hours before the test. In the final hours before the test, you should avoid drinking anything but water. Water can help with the clarity of the images obtained during the scan.
If you are concerned with experiencing anxiety, take along a CD to play. Many radiology departments are equipped with players that can be used to pipe music to patients during scans.
You should also ask a friend or family member to tag along. If he or she is willing to sign a consent form, the person can be allowed into the area to provide you with comfort.
What Happens After the Scan?
Following the CT scan, the technician will review the results and prepare a report for your doctor. You will have to wait until your next appointment to learn more about the scan.
Up your water intake over the next 24 hours of the test. Adding a few glasses to your normal intake can help avoid any reactions to the scan. If you have any negative reactions, such as vomiting, dizziness, or hives, call your doctor immediately or seek emergency care at the nearest hospital.