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A CT scan takes a number of pictures (x-rays) from different angles, which a computer then uses to build up a 3D picture of the inside of your body. Each picture looks like it’s of a slice of your body. A CT scan can be used to look at one part of your body or all of it. It isn’t painful.
You kind of get used to them over time but they're still, you know, they're still not my ideal way of spending a day! You kind of have to drink this fluid drink which they tell you tastes like orange squash but it doesn't. This is the experience of one person who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma when he was 22.
You kind of get used to them over time but they're still, you know, they're still not my ideal way of spending a day! You kind of have to drink this fluid drink which they tell you tastes like orange squash but it doesn't.
This is the experience of one person who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma when he was 22.
You may need to have a drink or an injection of a dye called contrast. This makes certain areas of your body show up more clearly. It can make you feel hot all over. If the scan is of your head, you may be able to keep your own clothes on, but otherwise you’ll be asked to undress to your underwear and put on a gown. You’ll also have to remove any jewellery, because metal can affect the scan.
The machine looks a bit like a giant Polo mint that a couch slides through. It’s open at both ends. The radiographer will help you get on the couch, and you’ll lie on it, usually on your back. It’s quite hard and can be uncomfortable. The radiographer then leaves the room, but you can still talk to them through an intercom. They’ll tell you when the scan is going to start and will ask you to lie still, but you can breathe normally. The scan lasts about 30 minutes, sometimes a bit longer. It’s not painful.
Some people find it difficult to lie still, and some people find that they feel anxious and/or claustrophobic. If you let the radiographer know beforehand, they’ll be able to help you through it. If you’re very anxious, they may give you a tablet or injection to help you relax. Closing your eyes and thinking about something else can be helpful.
Having a CT scan
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You’ll be able to go home afterwards. It can take anything from a few days to a couple of weeks for the results to be ready. Specialist doctors need to look at your scan and report the results.
Content last reviewed: 1 November 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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