What is a PET Scan?

A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is an imaging test that shows how your tissues and organs are functioning.  A PET scan uses a radioactive tracer that is injected into a vein in your arm.  Cancer cells show up as bright spots on PET scans because they have a higher metabolic rate than do normal cells. PET scans are useful in detecting cancer, revealing whether your cancer has spread, checking whether a cancer treatment is working or finding a cancer recurrence.  Almost all PET scans today are performed on machines that are combined PET and CT scanners.  CT imaging uses x-ray equipment to produce images that provide excellent anatomic information.  The combined PET/CT scans provide images that pinpoint the anatomic location of the abnormal metabolic activity within the body, and have been proven to provide a more accurate diagnosis than the two scans performed separately.

What to expect

A PET/CT scanner is a large machine with a doughnut-hole that you will go through for the scan. Our Toshiba PET/CT scanner has the widest bore (hole) in the country. This should help reduce any feelings of claustrophobia or anxiety you may have. The entire procedure will take approximately three hours. When you arrive for the test, your blood sugar will be checked, and you will be injected with a radioactive material.  You will be asked to rest quietly for 90 minutes while the radioactive material is absorbed by your body.

For the scan, you will lie down on a padded table that moves into the scanner. During the scan you will be asked to lie very still so that the images are not blurred.  The machine is fairly quiet and it will take about 30 minutes to complete the scan. The radiologist will analyze your scan and your physician will get the results.

What is a CT Scan?

Computed Tomography (CT) or Computed Axial Tomography (CAT) is an imaging exam that uses x-ray equipment to produce images of areas inside the body. A CT scan can be used to diagnose disease or injury as well as to plan medical, surgical, or radiation treatment.  The scans show images of your bones, organs, and soft tissues more clearly than x-rays.  CT scans can show a tumor’s shape, size, and location, and by comparing scans done over time, doctors can see how a tumor is responding to treatment or to find out if the cancer has come back after treatment.

What to expect

For the scan, you will lie down on a padded table that moves into the scanner.  Our Toshiba CT scanner has the widest bore (hole) in the country. This should help reduce any feelings of claustrophobia or anxiety you may have. During the scan you will be asked to lie very still and hold your breath for a short period of time, so that the images are not blurred.  If your physician ordered contrast, the contrast will be injected through an IV during the scan. The contrast helps visualize your blood vessels, intestines, and other structures.  You may get a warm, flushing sensation when the contrast is injected. The machine is fairly quiet and it will take about 15 minutes to complete the scan. Please alert the person who schedules your appointment if you have had any previous known reactions to contrast.