What is a PET/CT scan?
This advanced nuclear imaging technique combines positron emission tomography (PET) and computed tomography (CT) into one machine. A PET/CT scan reveals information about both the structure and function of cells and tissues in the body during a single imaging session.
During a PET/CT 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/CT 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 may help determine the tumor grade). The procedure is painless and varies in length, depending on the part of the body that is being evaluated.
By combining information about the body's anatomy and metabolic function, a PET/CT scan provides a more detailed picture of cancerous tissues than either test does alone. The images are captured in a single scan, which provides a high level of accuracy.
Most oncologists will perform a CT scan and/or a bone scan prior to ordering a PET/CT scan.