PET Scan (Positron Emission Tomography) - Procedure & Advantages


PET Scan – Positron Emission Tomography

A positron emission tomography (or PET) scan is one of the most efficient forms of oncologic diagnostic test useful for determining, not only the presence of cancer, but also effective in determining the stage of the cancer. This imaging scan provides a detailed view of any specifically abnormal activity in the organs and tissues of the body using highly advanced imaging non-invasive imaging technology. This scan is helpful in determining the location, area of metastasizing (spreading) if any, as well as the way the cancer might be hindering the functioning of the affected organs. With this detailed information your oncologist or cancer specialist will be able to suggest the best and most effective treatment for you. A PET scan is also used to find an appropriate place to perform a biopsy. It helps to determine the effectiveness of the cancer treatment and also to plan an efficient radiation therapy. The doctor will usually combine a PET scan with a computerized tomography (CT) scan for better diagnosis.

PET scan procedure

A positron emission tomography (PET) scan provides a detailed image of the functioning of organs and tissues of the body at the cellular level. This diagnostic procedure requires a technician to inject you with a small amount of radioactive substance. This substance is absorbed by your organ and tissues. The regions that utilize large amounts of energy tend to absorb larger amount of the radioactive substance. The cancerous cells absorb the most amount of this substance as the abnormal growth means more use of energy as compared to the healthy cells. The CT scan is then used to identify these areas of high-energy consumption which are marked differently than the normal ones. 

Difference between PET scan and CT/MRI scan

A PET scan mainly differs from other imaging tests, such as a CT scan or an MRI scan, in that it provides a detailed image of the metabolic changes developing in the affected tissue or organ at the cellular level. This is vital diagnostic information as any disease starts to develop functional changes in the affected tissue or organ initially at the cellular level. A CT scan or MRI scan detects changes in the later stages when the disease starts to gradually affect the structure of the affected tissue or organ.

Advantages of PET Scan

The major advantage of the PET scan is the superior detailed image that it provides for determining the various abnormalities in the tissues and organs. A PET scan is also effective in monitoring vital organ functions such as oxygen use, blood flow and glucose metabolism that will help to determine and segregate the normal and abnormal functioning tissues and organs. This scan is also helpful in evaluating the effectiveness and success of the treatment that the patient might be undergoing and allow for changes to be made to the treatment plan for better efficiency and effectiveness. A PET scan is more advantageous than a CT scan or MRI scan in detecting the presence as well as determine the stage the cancer is at.

Possible risks of PET scan

There is the smallest risk of radiation exposure, although the amount of the radioactive substance used in a PET scan is of minimal risk as the radioactive substance is retained by the body for a very short period of time.
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