Understanding Medical Imaging

Cancer Support Coach, Samantha Holt, explains about the imaging used to detect and monitor cancer. Samantha has worked at a senior level in medical imaging for the NHS for over 30 years.


Different Types Of Scan

As part of my work in a hospital, I come across a lot of cancer patients daily. One of the common questions I get asked is, “Why do I need to have lots of scans?” Patients often tell me they had a recent scan and question why they now require another one. There are many types of medical imaging scans, each providing slightly different information. These scans work together to provide a complete picture, and the doctors use this information to decide on the best course of treatment for you.

I have written a blog post for each type of scan so you can read about them in more detail. Understanding a scan’s purpose will help alleviate any fears or concerns regarding your appointment.


CT scan (Computerised Tomography)

What is it?
This scanner, often called “the doughnut, ” uses X-rays to produce detailed images of the body’s structures, such as bones and internal organs.

What happens at the appointment

Depending on the area to be scanned, you may be asked to change into a hospital gown. You must remove any metal (belts, necklaces, etc.) as this can interfere with the images produced, so please leave all jewellery at home. You will lie down on the imaging couch and the staff will ensure you are comfortable. This scan may also require a dye called contrast medium, which enhances the visibility of blood vessels, structures, and organs. This can be given to you as a drink or injected into a vein via a cannula (a small thin tube) in your arm. When contrast medium is given, you may feel:

-Hot and flushed
-Have a metallic taste in your mouth.
-Have a feeling of having wet yourself (peeing), but you have not!


All of these feelings will pass quickly. The imaging couch moves through the “doughnut” hole, taking images. The scan is completely painless and you will have to stay still as the images are taken. The staff will be in a different room during your scan but can always see and hear you.

If you have any questions or would like more information, I can be contacted at backtolifecsuk@gmail.com or visit my website backtolifecancersupport.co.uk

Samantha Holt

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