Resources

Q

What is a CT of the chest?

A

A CT scan of the chest is a type of scan that uses special equipment to obtain cross-sectional images of the organs and tissues of the chest. The images produced are far more detailed than those from a traditional chest X-ray. This scan can simultaneously show many different types of tissue including the lungs, heart, bones, soft tissues, muscle, and blood vessels.

Q

Why might my doctor recommend a CT of my chest?

A

A CT of the chest may be recommended for a variety of reasons. First, it can be used to detect tumors that develop in the lungs or that have spread there from other parts of the body. It also can be used to screen for lung cancer that may not be found on a chest X-ray. Other lung disorders, such as old or new pneumonia, tuberculosis, emphysema, and lung disease can be detected by this scan as well.

Q

How should I prepare for a CT of my chest?

A

To prepare for a CT scan, we recommend you dress comfortably. Also, avoid any clothing in the chest area that contains metal objects such as snaps or zippers that can affect the CT image. You will not be asked to wear a gown unless the technician feels your clothing could affect the results of the scan.

Depending on your individual scan, you may receive a contrast injection. Contrast material is a dye that makes your organs and blood vessels more visible when you are scanned. If contrast is used, you will be asked not to eat or drink for four hours prior to the procedure. After the scan you should drink plenty of liquids to help flush the contrast out of your system.

Q

What is the chance that an abnormality followed at 6 and 12 months is really a cancer?

A

This does happen, but it is uncommon. These “probably benign” findings have been well-researched. For example, in a research study involving thousands of women being followed for probably benign masses, only 1.7% were ultimately found to be cancer. These were diagnosed because they grew on the follow-up studies and were eventually biopsied. One-third of these had grown at the six month study, 1/3 did not show growth until the 12 month study, and 1/3 did not show growth until the 24 month study. Because “benign” appearing cancers are usually the slow-growing variety, these patients still presented with early stage cancers (same prognosis as if biopsied initially).

The six-month follow-up practice is used to prevent many unnecessary biopsies.

Guidelines for Management of Small Pulmonary Nodules