When And How A CT Scan Is Done For Breast Cancer

Your doctor as a variety of tests to rely on for diagnosing breast cancer and to identify its stage. One of those tests is the CT scan. A CT scan is a type of X-ray that allows your doctor to see inside your body. It reveals more information than a standard X-ray, and it produces images in 2D so your doctor can more easily pick up on tumors and metastasized cancer. Here is an overview of when and how the test is done.

When A CT Scan Is Indicated

Research is underway for using a routine CT scan to catch breast cancer in the same way mammograms are currently used. However, CT scans are more commonly used to help stage and diagnose cancer that is suspected, and it is given along with other tests. If you have very early breast cancer, a CT scan may not be necessary. It is most useful in scanning the chest wall and other organs for signs of the cancer spreading. CT scans are also useful for monitoring how well cancer treatments are working. Before and after scans show if the cancer is shrinking or spreading further.

How A CT Scan Is Done

A CT scan takes two-dimensional images of the inside of your body and organs. The machine is operated by a computer that takes the information and creates images your doctor can see printed out or on a monitor. To make the images more detailed, you'll be given a solution through an IV line right before the test is done. The dye that's used can possibly affect your kidneys, so your doctor may order lab tests ahead of the CT scan to make sure your kidneys are functioning properly.

A health professional positions you on a table for the test. The table slides into the machine, which is designed like a big ring. Images are taken of your body while you're inside the machine, although you probably won't have a full-body scan. Instead, your doctor may focus on the head, chest, or abdomen. A CT scan isn't painful or difficult to endure. You'll have to stay still until the procedure is over so the pictures come out clear.

If your breast cancer has spread, you may have a CT scan at some point before, during, or after your treatment. However, you probably won't have a scan of your breasts. Instead, your doctor will rely on the test to monitor your liver, brain, lungs, and spine for the development of metastasized cancer. In addition to the CT scan, your doctor may order an MRI or PET scan to get a better view of what's going on inside your body as you fight cancer.