PET-CT scans make use of two technologies to tell whether cancer is present and, if yes, where exactly it is located. PET-CT stands for positron emission tomography and computed tomography and is among the best options for cancer imaging. It has gained popularity over the years and has been proven to be useful in determining cancer diagnosis.
When a doctor is conducting another exam and notices something unusual such as a growth in a patient’s body, they may ask the patient to get a PET-CT scan. It does not matter whether the patient had gone to see the doctor for something minor or completely unrelated.
Used together, PET and CT technologies offer a larger amount of useful information about cancer, thus allowing for appropriate treatment. Here is how:
- A CT scan on its own simply shows a mass or tumor. It uses several X-ray images to give a more detailed image compared to a single X-ray image. That is the only information that may be available as it sometimes does not detect damage or change in tissue.
- A PET scan shows which part of the tumor is cancerous by detecting the presence of positrons. These are small particles in the body emitted as radioactive materials break down and carry a positive electric charge.A radioactive form of glucose attached to a radioactive substance is introduced into the body. Body cells absorb the glucose and the radioactive substance breaks down giving off positrons. Cancer cells are more active thus give off more positrons and are then easily detected. This in itself reduces the need for too many scans.
- With this information, doctors will then be able to decide which part of the mass to focus radiation on. This will ultimately reduce the incidence of damage to surrounding tissue that is healthy. Using these two technologies together during treatment gives a clearer picture of the cancer situation, telling whether the cancer is decreasing.
PET-CT scans are generally safe for most patients and will provide many benefits compared to X-rays.