A cat scan, also called computed tomography, computer assisted tomography, or a CT scan, is a test that may be used to determine if your child has cancer, where the cancer is located, and how well cancer therapy is working.
Cat scans use x-rays and computers to take pictures of what’s going on inside your child’s body. A computer takes the x-ray pictures that are like slices of your child’s body. These “slices” can then be reassembled to give doctors a piece-by-piece image of what’s going on inside your child.
What to expect
The CT machine is big and noisy, and the process can be scary for your child. He will have to lie down on a big table. The table then moves inside a large square machine with a hole in the middle. The machine then takes a series of x-rays that the computer turns into a two or three dimensional image of the area, or areas, of the body being examined.
Because the process can be pretty frightening, many children are given a mild sedative to calm them before they are subjected to the test. They have to lie perfectly still so that the pictures don’t turn out blurry. After the cat scan, he might have to remain in the room until the technician verifies that the scan took good pictures. If the pictures aren’t good enough, your child may have to have the scan done again.
Your child will hear clicking and buzzing noises as the machine spins and takes pictures. He will also probably notice that the table moves. That’s because the machine is repositioning his body to take more pictures.
A cat scan doesn’t hurt, but, again, it can be very scary; especially for young children. If possible, be sure to explain to your child what to expect so that he knows what is going on at all times. Scan technicians are used to working with kids and will talk to your child in a way he can understand to help him through the procedure.
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Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand's parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health, and Health Insite.
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