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PET is an acronym for Positron Emission Tomography. PET is a test that uses special imaging cameras and a radioactive type of sugar to produce pictures of the function and metabolism of cells in the body.

CT stands for Computerized Tomography. CT is an X-ray test that generates a detailed view of the anatomy or structure of organs and tissues in the body. The CT scan can show the dimension of vessels, lymph nodes and organ systems.

A PET/CT can depict both technologies using a single machine. It provides a picture of function (PET), a picture of anatomy (CT) and a merged picture of both the body's metabolism and structure.

PET/CT helps physicians diagnose, stage and treat cancer with more accuracy than ever before. The exam can provide answers to the following critical questions:

  • Where is the tumor?
  • Is it spreading?
  • How large is it?
  • What is the optimal therapy?
  • Is the therapy working?
  • Is there a recurrance?
Other potential benefits include:
  • Improves diagnostic confidence for patients who have, or may have, cancer.
  • Reduces the need for invasive procedures like biopsy or surgery.
  • Helps avoid the "wait and see" method, often used to monitor potential disease.
  • Monitors patients' response to treatment to ensure the treatment is working.

What to expect

During the exam:

You will receive a small injection of FDG (sugar water with a radioactive tracer). You will sit or lie down on a comfortable chair or bed for 30-90 minutes while the FDG travels throughout your body.

After this time, the technologist will assist you to the scanner. The CT portion of the exam is completed first, followed by the PET portion. You may be asked to hold your breath for several seconds while the CT scan is performed.

It is important that you don't move for the duration of the exam. The length of the exam is determined by your height and area of the body being scanned. When the total scan is finished, the computers will produce images for the radiologist to review.

After the exam:

Once the total scan has been performed, you may resume daily activity. Even though the FDG will quickly leave your body, you can expedite the process by drinking plenty of water after your scan is complete.

The reading physician will contact your referring physician to communicate all pertinent information from your scan. Then your referring physician will contact your to share the results.

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