“Positron Emission Tomography”- Thats what the PET scan stands for. For almost all cancer patients, the term PET scan becomes part and parcel of life. For some it may be a carrier of positive news, and for a few others not so great a news.
Before the scan- What should you do?
PET Scan uses radioactive tracers in a special dye called contrast commonly. Medical specialists require you to do a blood test and only on satisfaction is the dye injected. More specifically, your serum creatinine a kidney count. You would also require to fast for at least 4 hours before the procedure is done.
How is it done ?
The contrast is injected into a vein in your arm. When this is highlighted under a PET scanner, it shows any diseases in organs and tissues within the body. Where a PET scan gives a Macro view of the complete body, a CT could give finer details of individual organs or regions. The injective radioactive substance may take around 30-60 minutes to reach your tissues. SO you may be asked to lie or sit with limited movement. You may also be given the contrast for the CT scan orally(depending on the organ to be scanned).
Scans are done as outpatient procedures and do not require hospitalization. Post the procedure you may go home. However there may be a certain degree of tiredness. Plus it is recommended to drink water after the procedure to wash out the radioactive contrast within you.
Risks in the scan
There is a certain element of risk as the test exposes you to radiation. But as most docs say, the benefits of the test outweigh the risks and for cancer patients it helps assess the situation.
You would be placed on an examination table outside the PET-CT scanner. You would be required to lie either on your back, side or your stomach, depending on the organ or area to be scanned. A technician trained for the same would monitor the test images through a video screen placed in a nearby control room. Dont worry you would be able to communicate with hin in case of any issues or concerns.
Images are generally given within 24 hours. Docs would seek both the image and the written report/diagnosis of the scan.
If your doc suspects cancer a PET/CT is require
- To locate the exact site and size of the primary tumor
- Differentiate between benign and malignant growth
- Discover metastatic activity or if the cancer has spread
- Check if past treatment has reduced spread of cancer
- To check for any recurrent tumors