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A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is a type of nuclear medicine that uses small amounts of radioactive material, called a tracer, that acts as a contrast material.
Because certain types of cells, such as cancer cells, absorb more of the radioactive tracer than other cells, they are easier to see. The scanner detects the areas where more of the tracer is absorbed, which appear as bright spots on the PET scan.
This allows doctors to see how your organs are functioning and to see how your disease responds to treatment.
In addition to performing PET scans, our physicians are using one of the nation's most advanced scanners, which combines PET and CT technology to detect and treat cancer, heart disease and neurological disorders.
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As the name implies, PET/CT combines PET scan, which shows metabolism and the function of cells, with computed tomography (CT), which uses X-rays to make highly detailed cross-sectional, 3D images of the anatomy.
Together they provide high-definition, color and 3D images of how internal organs are working. This includes their size and shape, and the exact location of any activity requiring further evaluation.
The combination of advanced technologies offers benefits, including:
- More precise diagnosis
- Improved tumor detection and localization
- Precise cancer staging
- Better monitoring of cancer recurrences
- Shorter exam time and improved patient comfort
During Your PET/CT Scan
PET/CT is usually an outpatient procedure. You will lie on an exam table. Depending on the type of exam, you may receive the radioactive tracer intravenously or as a drink.
It can take up to an hour for the tracer to move through your body and be absorbed by the specific organ or tissue for scanning. The actual PET/CT scan usually takes about 30 minutes.
You can resume normal activity after your scan. A doctor, nurse or technologist will give you any post-exam instructions, if any are needed.
How We Use PET/CT
Doctors use this detailed information to determine the best treatment options for conditions like neurological disorders, cancer and heart disease. Patients receive the care that best suits their needs and provides the best outcomes.
PET/CT is essential to diagnosing neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. While CT and MR scans provide details about brain structure, PET/CT reveals brain function abnormalities that would otherwise go undetected. This can prevent the need for diagnostic brain surgery and allows faster, more effective treatment.
Detecting and staging tumors is crucial to provide the best treatment for any type of cancer. Detailed images from PET/CT helps with initial diagnosis and staging. It also allows doctors to use radiation therapies that precisely target cancer cells while avoiding healthy cells.
Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for men and women in the U.S. PET/CT provides detailed 3D images of the heart, its chambers, arteries and blood flow. Doctors can see blockages, aneurysms and other conditions and determine the best treatment.