What to Expect

CT scans, also called computerized tomography, can help determine if cervical cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the abdomen and pelvis. The scans can also tell the medical team if the cancer is advanced and has spread to the liver, lungs, or elsewhere in the body.

A CT scan is a type of X-ray exam that combines x-ray with powerful computers to create images of the inside of your body in cross section. Instead of taking a single x-ray, the CT scanner takes multiple images as it rotates around you. A computer takes these scans and creates an image that is a cross section of the part of the body being studied. Cross-sectional images, often compared to slices in a loaf of bread, show bones and soft tissue with greater clarity than regular x-rays.

What to expect:

Here's what to expect, step by step, when you have a CT scan.

Before the exam

  • You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. You may be given a gown to wear during the procedure.
  • You'll be asked to remove your jewelry, hearing aids and eyeglasses. Objects with metal may affect the CT images.
  • If a contrast material or dye is used in your exam, you may be asked not to eat or drink anything for several hours beforehand.
  • You'll be asked about medications, allergies, recent illnesses and your medical history as some conditions may increase the risk of an unusual adverse effect.
  • If you are claustrophobic or staying still for a length of time will cause you pain, talk to your doctor in advance about a mild sedative.

The exam

CT exams are painless, fast and easy. The CT scanner is a box-like machine with a short tunnel in the center and a narrow examination table that slides into and out of this tunnel. The scanners and detectors form a ring that will rotate around you. The technologist will operate the scanner and monitor your examination from a separate windowed room, but you'll be in two-way communication with the technologist the entire time.

The process

  • The technologist begins by positioning you on the CT examination table so that you can be examined
  • If used, the contrast material will be injected through an IV or given orally
  • Next, the correct starting position will be set for the scans
  • The table will move through the tunnel very slowly as the scanning takes place
  • You will hear buzzing, clicking and whirring sounds as the CT scanner revolves around you
  • The scan takes anywhere from five to 30 minutes