My Experience Undergoing a CT Scan

I was most anxious during my first CT scan. A routine test before my colonoscopy had discovered that I had enlarged lymph nodes. My physician and I were perplexed as to what was the cause. He suspected cancer but I was totally asymptomatic and felt great. A CT scan would help to give us some answers.

What is a CT scan?

A CT scan is a computed tomography scan that helps a physician determine the size and shape of a tumor. You may have heard a CT scan called by other names including a CAT scan or spiral CT.

The CT scan uses a thin beam of radiation to create a picture of the body from different angles. The machine provides spiral or cross-sectional views of the body that can be layered together and viewed in 3D. Special contrast material may be ordered both orally and intravenously to help get a clear picture.1

Prepping for my CT scan

My oncologist ordered both oral and IV contrast, so when I made the appointment in the outpatient center, I arranged a date to pick up the oral contrast. Blood work was ordered to ensure my kidney function was normal, as IV contrast can affect kidney function. I was instructed to take the oral contrast the night before and morning of my test. From midnight before the scheduled test, I could have nothing to drink by mouth except for the contrast. Be sure to tell both the oncologist and your CT technician if you have ever experienced a reaction to contrast.

I arrived early to register and prepare prior to my scheduled test time. I had nothing to eat or drink since midnight before, except for the oral contrast. I was led to the dressing cubicle where I removed my jewelry, blouse, and bra and put on a gown. I was scheduled for a CT scan of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis. I signed an informed consent form after the risks and benefits of the CT scan were explained.

What to expect during the scan

I listened carefully as the technician explained the procedure. An intravenous line was started in my arm. The technician reconfirmed that I had no prior allergy to IV contrast. I was asked to lie on a narrow table under a donut-shaped machine.

I was told to anticipate a warm feeling when the contrast dye was injected. I did feel a warm sensation in my groin.

The technician advised that I should listen for directions as to when to hold my breath and not move during the test. She would be in the adjoining room and could hear me.

The test was painless and lasted about thirty minutes.

I was advised to drink at least eight glasses of water after the test to ensure that the contrast was safely eliminated from my body.

Receiving my test results

The CT scan would be read by the radiologist and the results reported to my oncologist.

Fortunately, my oncologist recognized my anxiety and eagerness for the results. That same afternoon, he spoke with the radiologist and called me. The CT scan did confirm the presence of lymphoma. And so, my cancer journey began nine years ago. I have had repeat CT scans during my chemotherapy treatment and have now graduated to annual CT scans every April.

I am blessed and most grateful to now be in remission. I still experience scanxiety before my annual CT scan but I appreciate that my oncologist calls me promptly with the results.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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