A positron emission tomography, or PET, scan is a type of imaging test that a doctor may prescribe to search the body for evidence of certain diseases as well as to see how far any of those diseases may have progressed.
A special dye with radioactive tracers is injected, inhaled, or swallowed before the scan to highlight areas of increased chemical activity in order to identify disorders at the cellular level.
This may include cancer, heart problems, Alzheimer’s, or the locus of a patient’s epilepsy. A PET scan can measure blood flow, oxygenation levels, how a body processes glucose, and the speed of a cell’s replication.
PET scans may be combined with other imaging tests, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in order to create a 3D image that allows for greater detail.
Benefits & Risks of PET Scans
PET scans reveal changes in the cells earlier than an X-ray or CT scan might. A PET scan can see evidence of developing conditions far earlier than other types of diagnostic imaging scans because it actually shows the activity taking place inside of a cell. Tests like the CT scan or an MRI only show results after a disease has altered the structure of tissues or organs. But a PET scan can catch a disease as it is developing.
On the other hand, PET scans use radioactive isotopes for the test, which can create problems for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
After a PET scan, you will be told to drink lots of water to help flush your system. Because the radioactive agent can remain in your body for up to 48 hours, speak to your doctor about when you can resume sexual intercourse. Also, there are a limited number of times a person should have a PET scan done.
Why the Radiologist You Use Matters
The interpretation of PET scans can be confusing because noncancerous conditions can look like cancer, and certain types of cancer will not show up on a PET scan. So, having an experienced radiologist is critical for your diagnosis. It can mean the difference between accurate test results and false positives.
After your PET scan, the radiologists at Independent Imaging will prepare the results and send them to your doctor for his review.
Trust the board-certified and fellowship-trained radiologists that Independent Imaging employs. We have experience with every type of imaging scanner – because that is what we do. If your doctor has prescribed a PET scan or any other imaging test, contact us to request your appointment or call (561) 795-5558.