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CT Scan

CT Scans Compared To X-Rays

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An  X-ray and a CT scan show different types of information. Although an experienced radiologist can get a sense for the approximate three-dimensional location of a tumor from an X-ray, in general, a plain X-ray is two-dimensional.

An X-ray looks all the way through a body without being able to tell how deep anything is. If a tumor is present, an x-ray can see it. Information is collected on a flat piece of film.

A CT scan is three-dimensional. It looks at several three-dimensional slices of a body (like slices of bread). In addition to seeing if a tumor is present, a CT scan can see roughly how deep it is in the body. A CT scan can be three dimensional because the information about how much of the X-rays are passing through a body is collected on a computer - not just on a flat piece of film.

The data from a CT scan can be enhanced to be more vivid than a plain X-ray.

For both plain X-rays and CT scans, the patient may be given a contrast agent by injection or orally through a drink. The contrast agent shows more clearly the boundaries between organs, or between organs and tumors.

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