A positron emission tomography (PET-CT) is used to scan for cancer and to know more about its current stage.
A PET-CT scan is more specific than other imaging options. Doctors use it to check if the cancer treatment is working, plan for radiotherapy, and find the exact position for a biopsy. After your cancer treatment, a doctor uses PET-CT to check if there is new growth.
Before the scan, a surgeon injects you with FGD-18 (a radioactive sugar). Since cancer cells are more active than ordinary cells, they absorb more FGD-18 than the normal cells. The cancer cells appear uniquely during the scan, and the doctor distinguishes them from the normal cells.
Risks Vs. Benefits
PET-CT exposes patients to a small amount of radiation. So far, the radiation has no known harm. However, the risk may exist if you need multiple PET scans.
Doctors expose a limited area to radiation. If you have had other scans, inform your doctor so that they can decide on the right scan to use next time.
Preparing for the Scan
For a successful procedure, a radiology staff will highlight the dos and don’ts before the scan. Follow the advice and ask questions if there is a need.
- If you have diabetes, are breastfeeding, or pregnant, inform the staff. Also, if you are on medication, talk to the physician about it
- The staff will tell you whether to eat or not, depending on the area to scan
- On the day of the procedure, put on comfortable and loose clothes. Avoid clothes with zippers, buttons, or metallic parts, including bras, as you will be asked to remove them before the scan
- Alert the physician if you have any allergies, including iodine allergic reactions
- Avoid exercises or lifting heavy things 24hours before the scan
- Talk to your insurance provider before the procedure to find out what and how much they will cover for the PET-CT
Neither the radioactive substance nor the procedure is painful. You may be asked to take a contrast liquid to help make the images clear. The liquid might make your IV area itchy or feel hot, but the discomfort clears in minutes. The technician will request you to empty your bladder before the scan.
You may be uncomfortable during the scan since you must remain in the same position for a long time. Sometimes, the technician tilts, lowers, or raises the table for better images. Inform him to alert you just before he moves it. The machine is quiet or may have small clicking or whirring sounds.
After the scan, the technician will leave you on the table until he is satisfied with the quality of the images.