All About PET Scans

All About PET Scans

by Shearly (SU)

Technological advances in medicine have given rise to a bewildering array of advanced nuclear medicine tests and diagnostic imaging systems. From PET scans to MRI’s, CT scans to ultrasounds, many patients are confused as to what makes one test different from another. At Independent Imaging, we understand that medical imaging can be a confusing topic. We also believe that a well-informed patient, is a happier healthier one, too. That’s why we created this helpful guide that is all about  PET scans.

What is A PET Scan?

A PET scan is a sophisticated imaging system based on what is called positron emission tomography, or PET for short. A PET scan utilizes a very special medical dye, which is injected directly into a vein, that includes special low-dose radioactive tracers. This allows the doctor to track how well specific tissues and organs absorb the dye, giving them a real time window to how your body is functioning.

A PET scan can accurately measure your blood flowing through your heart and veins, how your body is breaking down and absorbing glucose (sugars), how well you are taking in and using oxygen, as well as identifying neurological disorders, tumors and cancers.

What Can a PET Scan Be Used For?

Cancer, for instance, shows up in a PET scan as brighter spots than surrounding tissues because cancer cells have a much higher rate of metabolism than healthy normal cells do. That is why PET scans are especially helpful in determining if a cancer is present, how far it may have spread, and seeing how well a cancer treatment is working, or if there has been a recurrence of cancer.

Because they are so sensitive, they must be looked at carefully by a radiologist as they can also pick up noncancerous conditions that look a lot like cancer on the scan, to the untrained eye. Additionally, many forms of solid tumors, often non-cancerous, show up clearly on PET scans. These can include tumors of the head and neck, brain, lung, pancreas, thyroid, prostate, esophagus, colon, cervix, and others.  

PET scans are also good for evaluating patients to see if they are a good candidate for angioplasty (a surgical procedure that can open clogged blood vessels) or coronary bypass surgery. They are often used to evaluate certain types of neurological disorders, such as seizure disorders, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. In the case of Parkinson’s, PET scans can be used to measure brain activity and functions that are linked to movement.

Because a PET scan uses a radioactive isotope as a tracer, it can, in rare instances cause an allergic reaction. Overall, PET scans are considered low risk and safe. The dose of radiation is both small and designed to be eliminated from the body relatively quickly.

If you, or a loved one needs a PET scan, or any other imaging services, or if you would like to schedule an appointment for PET scan, please call (561) 795-5558 today, or go online to make an appointment. Our board-certified radiologists are right here waiting in the Lake Worth, Wellington, Belle Glade, or Royal Palm Beach areas.