Positron emission tomography (PET) is a nuclear imaging technique that creates detailed, computerized pictures of organs and tissues inside the body.
A PET scan reveals how the body is functioning and uncovers areas of abnormal metabolic activity.
During a PET scan, the patient is first injected with a glucose (sugar) solution that contains a very small amount of radioactive material. The substance is absorbed by the particular organs or tissues being examined. The patient rests on a table and slides into a large tunnel-shaped scanner. The PET scanner is then able to "see" damaged or cancerous cells where the glucose is being taken up (cancer cells often use more glucose than normal cells) and the rate at which the tumor is using the glucose (which can help determine the tumor grade). The procedure is painless and varies in length, depending on the part of the body that is being evaluated.
A PET scan can be used to detect cancerous tissues and cells in the body that may not always be found through computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).