PET/CT Scan for Cancer
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At University of Maryland Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, we use PET and PET/CT scans to diagnose cancers affecting the brain, blood and body.
Working together with the cancer experts at UM Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, our specialists use PET scans to reveal the exact location and size of a tumor and help stage, or determine the extent, of the cancer.
A PET, or positron emission tomography, scan is a nuclear medicine imaging test. PET uses radioactive matter to show how organs and tissues are working and pinpoint disease. Combined with CT (computed tomography), PET/CT scans provide detailed 3D images of bone, tissue and organs for accurate cancer diagnosis.
PET/CT is the most useful test for determining the stage of cancer. It is more accurate than any other test in finding local or metastatic tumors. Although PET can’t detect microscopic cells, it can detect clusters of tumor cells that metastasized, or spread, to other tissues or organs. We use PET/CT to:
- Show whether a tumor is cancerous or not
- Stage lymph node tumors accurately
- Detect metastatic tumors, resulting in more accurate treatment
- Evaluate response to therapy, allowing changes if necessary
- Show whether cancer has returned
For women with metastatic cervical cancer, PET/CT can help determine how far this gynecological cancer has spread and the best course of treatment. This may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, alone or in combination.
We use PET/CT for staging colorectal cancer. This helps determine the extent of the cancer and the best type of treatment, which usually includes surgery with chemotherapy and radiation.
PET/CT, along with X-ray, MRI and nuclear medicine imaging, helps diagnose and stage esophageal cancer. After treatment, we use PET/CT to see if cancer has returned.
Head and Neck Cancer
Head and neck cancer include different types of malignant tumors affecting the mouth, throat, thyroid gland, sinuses and nasal spaces, the larynx, salivary glands, and the cervical lymph nodes in the neck. We use PET/CT for diagnosis, staging, and finding cancer remaining after treatment and returning cancer.
Lung cancer usually has no symptoms until its later stages, when successful treatment is difficult. Any early diagnosis is often from an X-ray, CT or MRI for another reason. When lung cancer is caught early, PET/CT can:
- Diagnose cancerous or noncancerous tumors without biopsy
- Stage lung cancer when first diagnosed
- Evaluate therapy response and find any returning cancer
Lymphoma is a blood-based cancer of the lymphatic system, a part of the immune system. This network of tissues and organs includes vessels carrying white blood cells and glands called lymph nodes, where the white blood cells fight infection.
Lymphoma can affect different areas at the same time. Whole-body PET/CT can find sites affected by lymphoma such as the bone marrow, liver and spleen. It’s the most accurate imaging method for staging and re-staging lymphoma, and provides a baseline for subsequent evaluation of therapy response and cancer recurrence.
Melanoma is the most serious and aggressive skin cancer. Biopsy is the most common diagnostic method. Treatments include chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and targeted therapies like external radiation therapy. Whole-body PET/CT scan is the best method for accurately staging melanoma or recurrence of melanoma after therapy.
PET/CT can diagnose the primary tumor and metastasis earlier. It offers more accurate staging to help develop the best treatment plan for ovarian cancer. After treatment, PET/CT monitors whether the cancer has returned and metastasized, or spread.