People whose doctors suspect they have certain illnesses, such as cancer or heart disease, may be told they need to go in for a PET scan. This instruction can be a bit intimidating for those who are unsure what to expect. After all, the name sounds just a little bit mysterious. Despite that, there’s no reason for concern. PET (positron emission tomography) scans are generally fairly simple to endure and don’t necessarily take very long. The time spent, however, can offer doctors tremendous insights about what is going on inside the body.
A PET scan is nothing more than an imaging tool like an X-ray. This tool, however, can see deeper inside the body, often on the cellular level, to enable doctors to more easily diagnose such conditions as some forms of cancer, heart disease, seizures and more. This is achieved through the use of a radioactive tracer dye that is typically injected into the arm or drunk through a solution prior to the test being formed. This process can take about an hour or so to ensure the tracer has been properly absorbed by the body.
Once the tracer has been given time to work, the test begins. Patients typically get to lay down on a table that is moved into a PET machine. There is a need to stay still during the test, but the procedure itself doesn’t hurt. Patients may notice some funny noises during the procedure, but that’s just the machine doing its job.
After the PET scan is performed, clinicians will read the scans and help the doctor make his or her diagnosis. Additional tests may be required, depending on the outcome. All in all, there’s not much to PET scans on the patient’s end. The procedure is relatively fast and offers tremendous insights that can help doctors more accurately diagnose a host of conditions without having to actually go inside the body to see inside it.