PET stands for Positron Emission Tomography
. It’s a procedure that adds an important new dimension to a physician’s ability to diagnose and manage disease.
Instead of detecting changes in the physical size or structure of internal organs, as other traditional imaging technologies do, PET detects changes in the cellular function. Since these functional changes take place before physical changes occur, PET can provide information that enables your physician to make an earlier diagnosis or to determine if current treatment is working effectively. Even if a previous CT or MRI detected disease or abnormalities, PET can help, because PET can often characterize the cellular function early in the course of disease.
These capabilities can translate into faster initiation of the best possible treatment while avoiding more invasive exams or exploratory surgery
What can I expect during my PET exam?
Before the scan, you will be injected with a radioactive tracer. The tracer is a compound such as sugar, labeled with a short-lived radioisotope. You will be asked to rest for approximately thirty to forty-five minutes while the radioactive compound distributes throughout your body, and is processed by the organs being evaluated. The radiation exposure associated with PET is safe and lower than the exposure associated with conventional CT scanning.
The technologist will ask you to lie on the scanner table, which will slowly pass through the scanner. The PET scanner detects and records the signals the tracers emit. The signals are then reassembled into actual images through computer processing. The interpreting physician reads the images and contacts your referring physician. Your referring physician will discuss your test results with you.
What are the benefits of PET?
- The exam is painless and safe
- Provides earlier detection of recurrent cancer
- Differentiates between non-malignant (benign) and malignant tumors
- Eliminates invasive procedures and multiple tests
- Avoids unnecessary surgery
- Assesses the location and the stage of malignant disease accurately
- Locates previously unknown metastases using a whole body survey
- Monitors the efficiency of patient care and management
- Reduces the time to diagnosis and leads to earlier treatment
What should I do to prepare?
- Wear comfortable clothes
- Take any prescribed medications on the day of the exam unless instructed not to do so by your physician
- Leave valuables at home
- Review patient exam preparation instructions
- Arrive on time for the exam
- Let the technologist know if you're pregnant or you think you might be
Can I eat or drink before the exam?
This will depend on the type of study, but typically, you will be asked not to eat or drink anything four to six hours before the exam. If you are a diabetic, please notify the individual who is scheduling your PET exam. Special arrangements may need to be made in advance.
How will I feel after the exam?
You should feel fine. There are no documented side effects from the injected tracer.
How much time should I allow?
Most patients can expect to be at the PET facility for at least two hours. The type of study performed will determine the exact time of the exam.