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Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scans


A positron emission tomography (PET) scanner is a type of imaging which uses low doses of radioactive substances linked to compounds used by the body's cells or compounds that attach to tumor cells. Using special detection equipment, the radioactive substances can be traced in the body to see where and when they concentrate.

PET scans may play a role in the following situations:

  • Determining whether a mass is cancerous.
  • Evaluating and staging recurrent disease (cancer that has come back).
  • To determine whether a particular treatment is working. .

How A PET Scan Is Given

A PET scan appointment generally lasts from 2 to 4 hours. Generally the scan itself does not hurt.

As a general matter, following is what happens before a PET scan::

  • You will be asked to fast before the test. (Diabetics receive special instructions).
  • You will be given an injection of a substance that consists of a combination of a sugar and a small amount of radioactively labeled sugar. The radioactive sugar can help in locating a tumor, because cancer cells take up or absorb sugar more avidly than other tissues in the body. The PET scanner is used to detect the distribution of the sugar in the tumor and in the body.
  • After receiving the radioactive sugar, you will lie still for about 60 minutes while the radioactively labeled sugar circulates throughout the body. If a tumor is present, the radioactive sugar will accumulate in the tumor.

You are then ushered into the room where the PET scanner is located. You will lie on a table which will gradually move through the PET scanner 6 to 7 times during a 45-60-minute period. This process is painless, but can be uncomfortable.

A computer translates information from the scanner into images that are interpreted by a radiologist. The findings are given to your doctor, who will then tell you the results.

You will be able to resume all normal activities immediately after the test.


  • It is advisable to get a copy of the radiologist's findings to keep with your copy of your Medical Records. Yes, it is advisable to keep your own copy of your medical records.
  • By the combined matching of a CT scan with PET images, there is an improved capacity to discriminate normal from abnormal tissues. 

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