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Mesothelioma CT Scans

Computed tomography (CT) scans are the most commonly used imaging test for mesothelioma. They provide more detailed images than a standard X-ray and help doctors detect potentially cancerous tumors throughout the body. Learn about mesothelioma CT scans, what to expect, and how our team can help you get accurately diagnosed.

Fact-Checked and Updated by: Jenna Tozzi, RN

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How Do CT Scans Work to Diagnose Mesothelioma?

CT scans

CT scans can visualize almost every part of the body and help diagnose any type of mesothelioma. They combine X-ray images taken from various angles around your body and use computers to generate cross-sectional images of your soft tissues, blood vessels, and bones.

Unlike X-ray machines, which are fixed in place, CT scanners rotate 360 degrees around you to provide a more complete picture of your body’s internal structures.

“CT images are much more precise than regular X-rays and are an important tool in the diagnosis of mesothelioma.”
– Fox Chase Cancer Center

Like other imaging tests, CT scans alone can’t definitively diagnose mesothelioma.

They help doctors see potentially cancerous growths/masses more clearly so they know whether the patient needs a biopsy to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Key Facts on Mesothelioma CT Scans

  • Uses: Diagnosis and staging of mesothelioma as well as monitoring response to treatment
  • Types of mesothelioma detected: Pleural, peritoneal, pericardial, and testicular
  • How they work: A large machine shaped like a donut takes X-rays of your body from multiple angles
  • Procedure time: Up to 30 minutes

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What Happens During a Mesothelioma CT Scan?

Mesothelioma CT scans generally follow the same procedure. Learn what to expect and what happens afterward.

1. Receive a Contrast Agent If Needed

CT scans can be done with or without a contrast agent. A contrast agent is a substance that makes your body’s organs and tissues easier to see in the mesothelioma CT images.

The CT technologist will give you a liquid to drink that contains the contrast agent. They may also administer it intravenously (through an IV). It’s normal to get a metallic taste in your mouth or feel a rush of warmth during the injection.

If you need to take a contrast agent for your mesothelioma CT scan, you may be required to fast before the procedure.

2. Get the CT Scan

Next, you will lie on a table that slides into the CT scanner. The scanning machine may make buzzing or whirring noises as it begins to rotate around you, but you’ll be given ear protection beforehand to make sure you’re comfortable.

The CT technologist won’t be in the same room, but they’ll be able to see, hear, and speak with you at all times. You may be asked to hold your breath at certain points to help you stay as still as possible and make sure the X-ray images are clear.

The scan usually takes 10 to 30 minutes. After it’s over, the scanner sends all of the X-rays to a computer to create one comprehensive image.

3. Discuss the CT Results With Your Doctor

You should receive results within 24 to 48 hours of your CT scan. During your discussion with your doctor, they will explain the findings of the CT scan, including any areas of concern or abnormalities.

If the CT scan reveals suspicious masses or nodules that could be mesothelioma, you will likely need to get additional tests like a biopsy to help confirm your diagnosis and rule out other conditions.

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How to Prepare for a Mesothelioma CT Scan

If it’s your first time receiving a CT scan, knowing what to expect can help ease any nervousness before your appointment.

Here’s what you need to know to prepare:

  • You may be asked to take off all or some of your clothing and wear a hospital gown, depending on which part of your body is being scanned.
  • You’ll also need to remove any metal objects that may interfere with CT scan results, such as jewelry, belts, eyeglasses, and dentures.
  • You may be asked to stop drinking or eating a few hours before the scan.
  • If your scan requires a contrast agent for better visibility, you may need to swallow a small amount of liquid containing it or get an injection through your arm.

People who have a fear of confined spaces may feel nervous about getting a mesothelioma CT scan. However, most CT scanners only cover portions of the body, so patients are unlikely to feel claustrophobic.

Use our Free Doctor Match to connect with top oncologists (cancer specialists) experienced in mesothelioma CT scans and other diagnostic tests.

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What Does Mesothelioma Look Like on a CT Scan?

Mesothelioma on a CT scan will appear differently based on the location of the cancer and whether it’s spread to other areas of the body.

  • Pleural mesothelioma CT: Masses, fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion), and/or thickening of the lung lining
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma CT: Masses and/or buildup of fluid within the abdominal cavity (ascites)
  • Pericardial mesothelioma CT: Nodules or thickening around the heart
  • Testicular mesothelioma CT: An abnormal soft tissue mass near or surrounding one or both testicles

With the results of the CT scans, doctors can get a clear picture of what is inside your body. If they suspect that you may have cancer, they can then order a biopsy to see if any suspicious areas observed on your CT scans are actually mesothelioma.

“When my doctor did the X-rays and a CT scan, they found a very big, large, dark area in my abdomen. It was a mass, and it was restricting my intestines. They wanted to do an exploratory surgery and get a biopsy to confirm their beliefs.

Then I went back to have another X-ray and CT scan. We found out later that day it was mesothelioma.”
– Brenda, peritoneal mesothelioma patient

What Other Imaging Scans Diagnose Mesothelioma?

There are other imaging scans that can be used to diagnose this cancer besides a malignant mesothelioma CT test.

These include:

  • Chest X-rays
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scans
  • Ultrasounds

Your mesothelioma doctor will decide which test(s) to use based on your symptoms and medical history.

What Happens After You Get a Mesothelioma CT Test?

After a CT scan, the images are reviewed by a radiologist (a doctor who specializes in interpreting imaging tests).

The radiologist will then share the mesothelioma CT scan findings with your doctor. If the scan shows potential abnormalities, your doctor may order additional imaging tests, like an MRI scan or PET scan, before taking a small sample of fluid or tissue for a mesothelioma biopsy.

If the biopsy confirms you have mesothelioma, your doctor will collaborate with other specialists to determine which treatment options will work best in your case.

During mesothelioma treatment, you may get CT scans every few months to see how your cancer is responding and identify any new areas of concern.

“CT scans can be used to learn if treatment like chemotherapy is shrinking or slowing the growth of the cancer.”
– American Cancer Society

Should You Get a Second Opinion on a Mesothelioma CT Scan?

Yes, you should always get a second opinion after a mesothelioma CT scan.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, and radiologists may have different interpretations of CT scans and other imaging studies.

Getting a second opinion from another radiologist or mesothelioma specialist can help give you additional insight and peace of mind.

Use our Free Doctor Match to get connected with a specialist near you.

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We Can Help You Get Mesothelioma Imaging Tests

Mesothelioma is a rare disease that can be mistaken for other conditions. That’s why it’s so important to get CT scans and other tests if something doesn’t feel normal.

Mesothelioma CT scans are crucial for early detection and an accurate diagnosis, paving the way for the most effective treatment.

Mesothelioma Hope is here to make the process easier by helping you get accurately diagnosed and connected with the best specialists for treatment.

Call (866) 608-8933 or get in touch with us to learn how we can support you at every step of your mesothelioma journey.

Mesothelioma CT Images FAQs

Does mesothelioma show up on a CT scan?

Yes, mesothelioma can often be detected on a CT scan since this test provides detailed images of the chest, abdomen, and other areas where this cancer develops.

Mesothelioma can appear as masses or nodules in some cases. It can also show up as abnormal thickening of the lining of the lungs (pleura) in pleural mesothelioma, or as thickening of the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum) in cases of peritoneal mesothelioma.

CT scans can also reveal the presence of pleural or peritoneal effusions (fluid buildup) associated with mesothelioma.

How long does a mesothelioma CT scan take?

A mesothelioma imaging CT scan typically takes 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the specific areas of the body being scanned and whether a contrast agent is used.

More time may be needed before the scan to prepare and administer the contrast agent, particularly if you’re getting it through an IV injection. However, the injection itself only takes a few minutes.

Does asbestos show up on a CT scan?

Asbestos itself doesn’t show up directly on CT scans. However, CT scans can detect signs of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

These signs may include:

  • Areas with hardened plaques or scarring
  • Fluid buildup around the lungs or abdomen
  • Masses or nodules
  • Thickening of the lung lining or abdominal lining

If you think you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos, contact our team today. We’ll listen to your story and share how we can help.

When will I get the results from a mesothelioma CT scan?

Most patients receive the results from their CT scans in about 24 to 48 hours.

If you’re tested in an emergency room or urgent care setting, you may get the results sooner.

Do mesothelioma CT scans cause side effects?

CT scans usually don’t cause side effects, but some people may develop mild nausea, dizziness, or a headache if they’re given a contrast agent to make the scan images clearer.

A mesothelioma doctor can discuss any concerns or side effects with you beforehand to ensure you receive the support you need during and after the scan.

Does a mesothelioma CT scan hurt?

No, a mesothelioma CT scan doesn’t hurt.

If your scan requires contrast, you may be required to get an intravenous (IV) injection. This might cause slight discomfort, but it’s usually brief and goes away shortly after.

What is the CT protocol for mesothelioma?

The CT (computed tomography) protocol for mesothelioma includes detailed scans of the chest and abdomen to see how much the disease has spread. These scans use a special dye to get clear pictures of the body’s insides.

Doctors may do these scans regularly to keep track of how the mesothelioma cancer is progressing and if treatments are working.

Jenna TozziWritten by:

Director of Patient Advocacy

Jenna Tozzi, RN, is the Director of Patient Advocacy at Mesothelioma Hope. With more than 15 years of experience as an adult and pediatric oncology nurse navigator, Jenna provides exceptional guidance and support to mesothelioma patients and their loved ones. Jenna has been featured in Oncology Nursing News and is a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators & the American Nurses Association.

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References
  1. American Cancer Society. (2018, November 16). Tests for Malignant Mesothelioma. Retrieved March 29, 2024 from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/types/malignant-mesothelioma/detection-diagnosis-staging/how-diagnosed.html
  2. Cleveland Clinic. (2023, June 13). CT (Computed Tomography) Scan. Retrieved March 29, 2024, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/4808-ct-computed-tomography-scan \
  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Computed Tomography (CT) Scan. Retrieved March 29, 2024, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/computed-tomography-ct-scan
  4. Mayo Clinic. (2022, January 6). CT scan. Retrieved March 29, 2024, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ct-scan/about/pac-20393675
  5. MD Anderson Cancer Center. (n.d.). What to Expect During Your CT Scan Visit. Retrieved March 29, 2024, from https://www.mdanderson.org/content/dam/mdanderson/documents/patients-and-family/diagnosis-and-treatment/diagnostic-tests/ct-infographic.pdf
  6. National Center Institute. (2024, February 8). Computed Tomography (CT) Scans and Cancer. Retrieved March 29, 2024, from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/diagnosis-staging/ct-scans-fact-sheet
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