Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is an imaging method that works by tracking sugar uptake in both healthy and abnormal cells in the body. It enables radiologists to see body function (cell activity) and identify areas that are absorbing sugar.
To determine the tissues that absorb high amounts of sugar, the patient is injected with a radioactive tracer before their scan. The radiotracer (FDG) travels throughout the body, and when absorbed, the areas with high sugar uptake will show up on the PET scanner.
The only body tissues known to be naturally active in absorbing sugar as fuel are the heart and brain. So other than the brain and heart, the PET will identify other areas in the body whose sugar activity is high, indicating the presence of cancer.
Cancer cells tend to have a high metabolic rate compared to healthy cells. The high level of chemical activity in cancer cells makes them appear as bright spots in the PET scan images.
That’s why PET scans are used in cancer diagnosis. They can show solid tumors in the cervix, brain, lungs, prostate, and thyroid. They can also help doctors evaluate the occurrence of pancreatic, melanoma, lymphoma, and colorectal cancers.
Other than diagnosis, PET scans help oncologists to determine if cancer has spread and how far, whether treatment is working, and if ithas recurred.
A PET scanner produces images of the body’s anatomy fused with other cell activity images when using sugar. The images are displayed on a computer screen to be interpreted by a specialist.
Doctors use PET imaging to determine a tumor’s location and if it can be removed through a surgical procedure. This imaging technique is vital in oncology as it guides physicians when making treatment decisions. Oncologists use it to develop effective treatment plans for their patients.