PET/CT Scan (Positron Emission Tomography/Computed Tomography)

Latest technology pinpoints cancer

Positron emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT) scans are a leading technology for viewing detailed images of cancerous tumors. By combining the information of PET scans and CT scans, radiologists can more accurately establish the extent of cancer and pinpoint its location within the body. This is accomplished by the fusion of the CT scan, which outlines the shape and size of the tumor with functional information about the activity of the abnormal tissue from PET. While PET has great utility in determining the extent of a cancer once diagnosed, it does not have a role in screening patients to determine if cancer is present.

PET/CT is not used for primary cancer detection, but it has been shown useful in determining the extent and distribution of the following tumors:

  • lung
  • esophageal
  • breast
  • colon
  • lymphoma
  • head and neck
  • melanoma

The Technology 

Through PET/CT and their ability to precisely pinpoint cancerous tumors, the scans allow treatment - whether chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery - to be more directly focused on the affected area of the body. By more precisely localizing cancerous areas with PET/CT, treatment can be more accurately targeted to these areas. This translates into more refined treatment and better patient outcomes.

PET/CT is a dynamic area of imaging and shows great promise with rapidly growing clinical applications.

What's the Difference? 

Here's a look at the capabilities of PET and CT:

  • PET scan - has the ability to pick up the metabolic signal of cancerous cells in the body that are actively growing.
  • CT scan - provides a detailed image of the internal organs, which reveals the size and shape of cancerous tumors. Think of a CT scan as a highly sophisticated X-ray.

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