A CT scan (computed tomography scan) is a specialized x-ray imaging test that provides doctors with a fairly detailed image of a particular area of the body needing a closer look. Commonly referred to as a “cat scan,” computed tomography scans can be used to get a picture of the size and location of thyroid cancers, as well as to see if the cancer has spread to nearby locations. While thyroid ultrasounds and MRI’s are usually the preferred imaging methods used for diagnosing thyroid cancer, CT scans are helpful for diagnosing and locating tumors, large thyroid nodules, and goiter.
How Does a CT Scan Work?
A cat scan takes x-ray images in a slightly different manner than a traditional x-ray. The patient lies on a table in the middle of a ring-shaped scanner and must lie still while the images are being taken. A CT scan is different from a traditional x-ray in that it takes many x-rays of the area in question and then combines the images providing doctors with a much more detailed picture than a standard x-ray.
Some doctors may ask a patient to drink a contrast solution or get an IV through which a dye is passed before the cat scan takes place. The purpose of the contrast solution or dye is to get a clearer, more detailed image of the particular body structures being looked at.
A CT scan may also be used to help guide a fine needle biopsy. The doctor will use the images produced by the scan to guide the needle into the exact location of the suspected cancer then take a biopsy sample from the tumor/mass/thyroid. Using the scan during biopsy helps ensure the doctor takes the biopsy from a very specific location.
CT Scan FAQs
Our doctors understand that patients want to know everything they can about the thyroid testing and imaging they need to have done. The doctors here at the Thyroid Surgery Center of Excellence in Beverly Hills have taken the time to answer questions they hear frequently to help you in your research.
Q: Does a cat scan hurt?
A: No, there is no pain involved in a CT scan. Some patients may actually find it to be relaxing, as you simply lie down while the machine takes the images around you. It can be, however, a bit unsettling for patients with claustrophobia as the ring in which you lay is a bit of a confined space. Fortunately, the process generally only takes a few minutes. Talk to your doctor before your scan if you have any concerns
Q: How do I prepare for my computed tomography scan?
A: The specific preparation will depend on your individual condition and the orders of your physician. For instance, you may or may not need to drink a contrast solution before the imaging. You will likely be asked to remove clothing and jewelry and wear a hospital gown to ensure you do not have any metal on your body that could potentially interfere with the scan. Be sure to get your specific preparation instructions from your doctor during your consultation.
Q: How long does a CT scan take?
A: Most CT scans only take a few minutes to complete, but the exact time will depend on the specific images your doctor has ordered. The length of the entire process will also vary depending on whether or not your doctor orders the use of a contrast solution.
Q: How is a computed tomography scan different from an MRI?
A: A CT scan uses the same radiation technology as an x-ray, whereas an MRI uses magnetic fields to take images. MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, uses radio waves and a magnetic field to produce images of internal body structures. An MRI may provide doctors with different information than the images produced by a CT scan.
Call the Thyroid Surgery Center of Excellence for More Information
If you have questions about CT scans, call the thyroid experts at the Beverly Hills Thyroid Surgery Center of Excellence today. Our physicians are here to help make this process as easy as possible for you. Call today at (888) 817-1439.
Please read this WedMD website for information on CT Scans.
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