When healthcare providers need more detailed information about what’s going on inside the body without requiring that they actually go into the body, a unique combination test can deliver the results needed. A PET/CT scan combines two powerful imaging procedures into one, providing an in-depth look inside the body from the outside.
PET/CT scans are diagnostic tools that simultaneously perform these two tests to deliver highly detailed information. Often used in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, this combination test can detect and stage cancer at the same time. The PET scan provides information about the metabolic activity of cancer cells while the CT scan provides a detailed image of cancerous structures within the body. The resulting images can confirm or deny cancer’s presence while offering insights on stage, aggressiveness, location and size should a tumor be found.
While applications for PET/CT scans go well beyond cancer, the tool is considered invaluable to oncologists and other cancer care professionals. Since treatment recommendations are often developed based on the results of such diagnostic procedures, the combination test enables clinicians to move forward with a higher degree of confidence. The test is also highly useful for gauging the effectiveness of treatments once they have begun.
When a healthcare provider orders a combination PET/CT scan, patients will find this test is fairly simple to undergo on their part. Pre-procedure orders may be given, such as fasting for a few hours, but the instructions are generally fairly simple. Once a patient arrives at a testing facility, a radioactive tracer drug will be administered to assist with the PET portion of the test. These tracers are attracted to areas of high chemical activity within the body, such as cancer tumors, and enable them to light up during the procedure. The procedure itself only requires that patients lay down on a table that is then moved through a special machine. It typically takes only a few minutes to complete a PET/CT test once the tracer is in place.
Patients who find their doctors ordering PET/CT scans will find this simple test can provide valuable, and potentially lifechanging information. To find out more about why a PET/CT has been ordered, consult with a personal physician.