CT scanning in stomach cancer patients is used in the staging the disease. It is a complex x-ray test which takes slices or ‘cross-sectional images’ of your body.
In staging, you will normally have scans of your thorax (chest), abdomen and pelvic areas looking for evidence of tumor spread to either lymph nodes (glands) or other organs such as the liver and lungs.
The test doesn’t take long and needs little preparation. You may be offered contrast that shows up blood vessels, given to you ‘intravenously or in to your vein’.
If given contrast, you will feel flushed for a minute and also may have the feeling of wanting to pass urine as well.
Sometimes you will also be given a contrast dye to swallow, which will coat the lining of your stomach and make images clearer.
The contrast is iodine based, so if you are allergic to this, please inform the radiographer or radiologist doing the test.
A computer tomography scan of your chest, abdomen and pelvis takes anything up to 30 millisieverts of radiation. When you compare this to a chest x-ray which is only 0.02 millisieverts, you are getting up to 1500 chest x-rays worth of radiation.
This sounds a lot and it is. However, in a normal year background radiation is 2 millisieverts and airline staff experience up to 9 millisieverts a year in radiation.
Whenever anyone is offered CT scanning in stomach cancer, you have to look at the benefits to risks. Clearly, the benefits outweigh the risks.
Also you have to realise that a treatment dose of radiation is around 20,000 millisieverts, which puts it in to perspective!
Sometimes a scan is used to guide a biopsy of a piece of your tissue.
Using the scanning technology allows the radiologist to pin point the area that needs biopsying if for example an enlarged gland or a ‘mass in your abdomen’ is found.