What is a PET Scan?
A PET scan, or Positron Emission Tomography scan, is an imaging technique that allows physicians to examine many organs of the body and is helpful in diagnosing many diseases, such as cancer. Other techniques, such as CT scan or MRI, only show organ structure, where as PET shows organ structure and function.
PET is able to differentiate between malignant and benign tumors since it shows how the organ functions. PET can detect if a disease has moved from one part of the body to another, which is not evident clinically or through routine imaging. By uncovering abnormalities that might otherwise go undetected, PET guides physicians to the most appropriate treatment.
How does the procedure work?
During a PET scan, a patient receives an injection of a small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) into their bloodstream. There is no danger from this injection. The radiation exposure associated with PET is similar to that of conventional CT scanning. Next, the patient will wait about an hour while the injection is distributed through their body. Then the patient will lie on a table, keeping their head still, that will slowly pass through the scanner. The entire visit lasts about two to three hours. The actual procedure is safe with no side effects, and lasts about forty-five minutes. Typically, the patient will be asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before their appointment.
What is the importance of PET scans when it comes to cancer?
- Detects recurrent cancer early on.
- Detects extremely small cancerous tumors, which means earlier diagnoses and treatment.
- Differentiates between benign and malignant tumors.
- Accurate in determining tumor stage.
- Differentiates between operable and inoperable disease.
- Non-invasive way of screening diseases.
- Replaces multiple medical testing procedures with a single exam, producing imaging information of superior quality.
- Can reduce or eliminate ineffective and unnecessary treatment, and the associated costs.