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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

Preparing for a 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.

The day of my scan

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 CT 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.

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.

  1. CT Scan for Cancer. American Cancer Society. Available at


  • Ann Harper moderator
    4 weeks ago

    @cmccue I still remember that first ct scan. I had no idea what I was in for. My doctor had nonchalantly said I can get the test if my lymph nodes dont go down. Well they didn’t and I had the test. It wasn’t so quick for me. I had to wait about 2 weeks to get the results and then another month to get surgery. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. You’re very lucky you have a doctor that is so quick to get back to you.

  • Carole McCue author
    4 weeks ago

    Thank you Ann. Yes my oncologist is a gem. But other physicians should be sensitive to the patient’s need for results. Scan-xiety is a real thing.

  • Daniel Malito moderator
    1 month ago

    @cmccue Scanxiety, it’s a real thing, even with something as deceptively simple as a CT scan. It’s like we need them to survive, but they also are the bane of our existence. The dichotomy is surreal. They took five of mine before they even found my cancer. I feel you, good stuff as usual. Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Carole McCue author
    1 month ago

    Thank you Daniel. You are so upbeat🥰

  • Ramae Hamrin moderator
    1 month ago

    The CT scan … something we can all relate to. What a great explanation you have written here. I remember my first CT didn’t pick up the 9 cm plasmacytoma in my hip. They were looking for a fracture, not cancer. Now they know better! I’m so happy to hear you are in remission. May it continue indefinitely!

  • Carole McCue author
    1 month ago

    Thank you Ramae. Wishing you good health

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    1 month ago

    May you continue in remission. I’m at my second year stretch and understand that this Scan is my yearly routine to make sure everything is good as well. Wishing you the very best!

  • Carole McCue author
    1 month ago

    Thank you Yolanda. Wishing you good health🙏🏻

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    1 month ago

    Thank you 🙂

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