What is a PET-CT?

Positron emission tomography and computed tomography (PET-CT) have revolutionized cancer care by providing detailed scans for diagnosis, surgical planning, treatment planning as well as treatment monitoring. With PET-CT, doctors can detect tumors nearly three times smaller than masses visible on traditional scans. It also enables them to better determine whether a mass is malignant (cancerous) or benign (not cancerous).

What doctors see in a PET-CT image that distinguishes cancer from healthy tissue is the accumulation of a radioactive substance called a radiotracer in the cancerous tissue. This radiotracer is glucose-based and is injected prior to the scan.

How is a PET-CT performed?

  • Prior to your exam, a technologist will inject a small amount of radioactive glucose into your arm.
  • You will then be directed to sit alone quietly and very still for 60 minutes, which gives the tracer ample time to circulate through your body.
  • For the scan, you will be asked to lie very still on a padded table, which moves slowly through the scanner’s chamber as it captures the information needed to generate diagnostic images.
  • A technologist will be stationed in a nearby room. They are present throughout the exam and able to communicate with you through an intercom.
  • While the actual scan takes approximately 20 minutes, the entire process can take up to three hours, so plan your day accordingly.

Many people who suffer from claustrophobia are able to tolerate our exam due to the openness of our scanner. However, if you are concerned that this could be an issue, please contact your ordering physician to obtain medication to bring to your appointment