Your medical oncologist may include Positron Emission Tomography (PET) diagnostic imaging scans as part of your cancer care treatment plan, as PET can greatly improve their ability to evaluate and treat your disease.
Positron emission tomography (PET) is an advanced imaging technique that produces images of the body’s biological functions. Unlike many other imaging techniques, PET does not show body structure; instead, it reveals the chemical function of an organ or tissue, which a valuable tool for the early detection and diagnosis of several types of cancer. It is also used for staging and restaging, and may reduce the need for further testing and diagnostic surgeries.
PET allows your medical oncologist to examine large areas of the body in a single scanning session, producing images that are unobtainable using other techniques. PET images can uncover abnormalities that might otherwise go undetected, and they can also help identify which abnormalities are malignant and which are benign. This valuable information helps your physicians determine your best treatment options.
PET scans are safe and can be performed in a few hours as an outpatient procedure. When you receive a PET scan, you will be injected with a small amount of radioactive glucose - called a "tracer" - that is distributed throughout your body. After relaxing for about an hour, you will lie on a scanning bed that moves slowly through the PET scanner while it detects the injected tracer. The scanner sends the resulting information to a computer that generates images to be analyzed by a specially-trained radiologist.
PET/CT is a relatively new imaging tool that combines two diagnostic imaging scan techniques in one - a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan and a CT scan. The combined PET and CT images enhance the physician’s ability to diagnose cancer at earlier stages, including recurrent cancers, and provide a clearer assessment of response to treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. PET/CT is mainly used for diagnosis, staging or restaging cancer and for evaluation of treatment response. Together the two procedures provide information about the location, nature of and the extent of a tumor. It answers questions such as: where is the tumor, how big is it, is it malignant, benign or due to inflammatory change, and has it spread?