PET Scans: Positron Emission Tomography
Positron Emission Tomography, or PET, scans can be used to detect cancer, heart disease, and brain disorders, among other conditions. This information can be used by your doctor to diagnose, monitor, or treat your condition.
PET scans detect abnormalities in diseases before other imaging tests, such as X-rays or CT scans. You may hear the term (PET) used in conjunction with nuclear medicine procedures.
PET uses a special camera and computer to construct a 3-D image of the area being scanned.
Single photon emission computerized tomography, or SPECT, produces a cross-sectional image of the area being scanned. During a SPECT examination, a gamma camera encircles the patient, collecting photons emitted from the radiopharmaceutical and transforming them into visual data.
A PET scan studies metabolic activity and can detect tumors in lymph nodes. The images show areas of abnormal metabolism, helping to detect tumors and other diseases that are not detectable by other means. Physicians can make a more accurate diagnosis and identify cancer with a PET scan.
During the examination
During a PET scan, a patient may be injected with a radioactive substance called a tracer.
The tracer will then travel through the body and accumulate in areas of higher cellular activity. The PET scanner detects the radioactivity and produces images showing these active areas.
It is important for patients to remain still during the scan to ensure clear and accurate images. The entire procedure usually takes about 30-60 minutes. Some patients may experience side effects from the tracer, such as nausea or headaches, but these typically resolve within a few hours.
The results of the PET scan can be used to diagnose and monitor various medical conditions, including cancer, heart disease, and brain disorder. However, it is important to note that PET scans are not always necessary and should be discussed with a healthcare provider.
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