Imaging scans you may have

During planning and treatment, you may need to have some of the following tests to show the exact position and shape of the cancer.

X-ray – Powerful invisible radiation passes through the body and creates an image on x-ray film, with black areas representing soft tissues and lighter areas showing denser tissues, such as bones.

CT scan – CT stands for computerised tomography scan. It uses x-ray beams and computer technology to create a detailed, cross-sectional picture of the inside of the body. You may be given an injection of a dye to make the images clearer. The CT scanner is large and round like a doughnut and you will lie on a table that moves in and out of the centre of the doughnut.

MRI scan – MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging scan. It uses radio waves and magnetism to create cross-sectional pictures of the inside of the body. You may be given an injection of a dye before the scan. You will lie on a table that slides into a narrow metal cylinder. The machine can be quite noisy.

PET scan – PET stands for positron emission tomography scan. It involves an injection of a small amount of radioactive glucose solution. Cancerous areas take up more of the glucose and show up brighter on the scan.

PET-CT scan – This combines a PET scan and a CT scan in one machine. The machine looks similar to a CT scanner.

Ultrasound – A device is placed on or in your body to send out high frequency soundwaves that you won’t be able to hear. The soundwaves are reflected when they meet something dense, like an organ or tumour. A computer then creates a picture from these soundwave reflections.

Your treatment team will explain what to expect from each test, or you can call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for more information.

This information was last reviewed in December 2017
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