Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is a powerful imaging technique that holds great promise in the diagnosis and treatment of many diseases, particularly cancer. A non-invasive test, PET scans accurately image the body’s physiologic changes which helps doctors see how the organs and tissues inside your body are actually functioning.
The test involves injecting a very small dose of a radioactive chemical, called a radiotracer, into the vein of your arm. The tracer travels through the body and is absorbed by the organs and tissues being studied. Next, you will be asked to lie down on a flat examination table that is moved into the center of a PET scanner—a doughnut-like shaped machine. This machine detects and records the energy given off by the tracer substance and, with the aid of a computer; this energy is converted into three-dimensional pictures. A physician can then look at cross-sectional images of the body organ from any angle in order to detect any functional problems. A Computed Tomography (CT) scan shows the structure of the anatomy where the changes are taking place. Combining these two scans in one highly sophisticated PET/CT imaging technique provides, during a single outpatient exam, detailed information to physicians about the presence or spread of disease and accurately identifies its precise location. For patients undergoing treatment, a PET/CT scan can provide a clearer assessment of how each person is responding. This is how PET/CT imaging is truly impacting individual lives.