Lymphoma is a type of cancer affecting the immune system. It is classified into Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These two types are further categorized into several subtypes. Doctors use PET scans many times in the treatment of lymphoma, starting with determining the stage at which the cancer is, monitoring treatment response and giving a prognosis. It is effective for some forms of lymphoma specifically Hodgkin lymphoma and a number of the common subtypes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
PET scans remain an important part of a patient’s cancer journey and here is why:
- The usual practice is to perform a scan before treatment begins so the doctors can find out the stage of the cancer. In some instances, the doctors may go straight to treatment and then conduct the scan afterwards for various reasons including scheduling issues or urgency of the treatment.
- Once treatment begins, the doctors will perform another PET scan after three rounds of chemotherapy. This is to ascertain whether the treatment is working. If there is a change, the doctors will most likely stick to the same treatment plan but if there is little change, the doctors will look at alternative treatments that could be more effective.
- A PET scan is best for lymphoma because of how it works. It shows internal chemical activity and as such, if the tumor is still active, it will come up on the scan. If the disease is in remission the scan will show no activity, whether the tumor is still there or not. Other imaging technologies like a CT scan would probably have shown no change.
- After several rounds of treatment, a PET scan can give a reliable prognosis which will then guide treatment decisions afterwards.
A PET scan is more than just a diagnostic test. For lymphoma, it is a tool to help at every stage of treatment.