What is a CT scan?

Arrow In this section

 Pros and Cons of early diagnosis of lung disease 

As part of your Lung Health Check you may be offered a lung CT scan to check for any change in your lungs that might need treatment. One of the particular things we are looking for is any early signs of lung disease including lung cancer. Checking for cancer in this way is called screening. You may have heard of screening for other types of cancer such as breast, cervical or bowel cancer. For all types of cancer screening, there are benefits, such as curable treatment but also some downsides. When you come for your Lung Health Check, we will explain these to you so that you can make up your own mind and decide for yourself if you would like a scan. 

What is a CT Scan? 

CT stands for computerised tomography, which is a special scan that uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the inside of the body. CT scans are sometimes referred to as CAT scans or computed tomography scans. 

They are carried out by specially trained operators who are called Radiographers. For the Manchester Lung Health Check Programme we use ultra-low dose CT, which means the exposure to radiation is extremely low, similar to that of an x-ray. 

Try to avoid wearing jewellery and clothes containing metal (such as zips), as these will need to be removed. 

What happens during a CT scan? 

During the scan, you will usually lie on your back on a flatbed that passes into the CT scanner. The scanner consists of a ring that rotates around a small section of your body as you pass through it. 

The Radiographer will operate the scanner from behind a screen in the CT room. While the scan is taking place, you will be able to see and speak to them. While each scan is taken, you will need to lie still and follow simple breathing instructions for less than 10 seconds to ensure that the pictures are not blurred. 

Will I have an injection? 


How long does it take? 

An ultra-low dose CT scan appointment will take no more than 15 minutes, but is usually done within 5-10 minutes. Once you are on the table the scan itself takes less than 20 seconds to complete. 

What next? 

After the CT scan you will be offered help to stop smoking (if applicable) and are free to go home. The scan is painless and you will be able to eat, drink, or drive as normal after your scan. 

When do I get the results? 

You will get your lung health check results within four weeks. This will inform you if your scan is normal, if you need a follow up scan or if you need to have further investigations. 

Is the CT scan ever wrong? 

Sometimes scans can detect an area that needs further investigation, but is later found to be harmless. If you have any concerns about your result you can discuss it with your GP.