Positron emission tomography (PET) captures 3D pictures of the interior of your body. The imaging technique relies on a mildly radioactive drug. PET displays whether and where cancer has spread in your body. The drug highlights areas where cells are more active (cancer cells tend to be more active than other cells). PET scan is an outpatient procedure that takes roughly 45 to 6o minutes to complete. Radiologists combine PET with CT scan for clear images.
The Purpose of a PET Scan
Physicians request a PET scan for various reasons such as detecting the presence of cancer. They also order the scan to determine how far the disease has spread.
Before diagnosis, a physician requests for the scan to check if a lump is cancerous or not. When you begin your cancer treatment, your physician may request a PET scan to help determine the best treatment method for each patient..
Sometimes, scans are used to check for cancer at the heart’s center or in the lymph nodes. Lastly, oncologists request for PET scan to find out if the current treatment is working.
How to Prepare for PET
Physicians advise patients to avoid eating 4 to 6 hours before the procedure, but you can have water.
However, if you have a condition that requires you to eat frequently, talk to your physician. Feel free to discuss any fears you may have about the procedure. They want you to be comfortable during the scan, and will find ways to help you if needed.
During the Procedure
For comfort during the procedure, your radiographer gives you a hospital gown. When you are ready, they inject you with a radiotracer one hour before the scan.
Your radiographer watches you through the window or on a screen placed in the control room.
The scan is painless. The machine’s couch moves forward and backward as the device captures pictures.
Avoid driving, operating heavy machinery, signing legally binding documents, or drinking alcoholic beverages. Drink plenty of liquids which willeliminate the radioactive tracer from your body. If you live alone, ask someone to stay with you for the night if you took sedatives.
PET scan is safe but might be risky in the following conditions:
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Bruising and swelling around the injection area
- Exposure to radiation raises your chances of developing cancer
- Sometimes patients experience allergic reactions, butrarely
After the procedure, expect your results within one or two weeks.