Common Uses for Computed Tomography (CT)

Computed Tomography is also called computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography. This is where the "CAT" Scan comes from. CT scans have a multitude of purposes in the medical industry.


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We at Southwest Diagnostic Center for Molecular Imaging use CT scans to:

  • monitor the growth or remission of cancer
  • metastasization of cancerous tumors
  • diagnosing the current progression or stage of cancer
  • determining where and how a biopsy may be done
  • provide insight into what surgery procedure may be most effective
  • allow doctors to interact directly with radiologists for conferencing and planning
  • detect reoccurance of cancerous tumors
  • guiding non-surgical localized treatments, including RFA, Cryotherapy, HIFU, and more.
  • screening for cancer

Computed Tomography for Cancer Screening

Computed Tomography is used as a main screening option for both Colorectal Cancer and Lung Cancer. The reason that CT scans are used for these procedures is that CT scans are fast and effective. It's painless and non-invasive, which makes it a great option to monitor and screen for new cancers or remissions in treated cancers.

Colorectal Cancer CT Scans

CT colonography (also known as virtual colonoscopy) can be used to screen for both large colorectal polyps and colorectal tumors. A thorough cleansing of the colon is performed before this test and a radiation sample is given. During the examination, air or carbon dioxide gas is pumped into the colon to expand it for better viewing.

The National CT Colonography Trial, an NCI-sponsored clinical trial, found that the accuracy of CT colonography is similar to that of standard colonoscopy. CT colonography is less invasive than standard colonoscopy and has a lower risk of complications. However, if polyps or other abnormal growths are found on CT colonography, a standard colonoscopy is usually performed to remove them.

Learn More about Colorectal Cancer CT Scans

Lung Cancer CT Scans

The NCI-sponsored National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) showed that people aged 55 to 74 years with a history of heavy smoking are 20 percent less likely to die from lung cancer if they are screened with low-dose helical CT than if they are screened with standard chest x-rays. However, there is more risk for false positives than with other tests.

The benefits of helical CT in screening for lung cancer may vary, depending on how similar someone is to the people who participated in the NLST. The benefits may also be greater for those with a higher lung cancer risk, and the harms may be more pronounced for those who have more medical problems (like heart or other lung disease), which could increase problems arising from biopsies and other surgery.

What are some other common uses of CT?

  • Studying the chest and abdomen.
  • Diagnosing cancer. CT examinations are often used to:
    • Plan and properly administer radiation treatments for tumors.
    • Guide biopsies and other minimally invasive procedures.
    • Plan surgery.
    • Determine surgical resectability.
  • Diagnosing and treating spinal problems and injuries to the hands, feet and other skeletal structures.
  • Measuring bone mineral density for the detection of osteoporosis.
  • Identifying injuries to the liver, spleen, kidneys, or other internal organs.
  • Detecting, diagnosing and treating vascular diseases that can lead to stroke, kidney failure, or even death.