A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is an advanced diagnostic tool capable of revealing numerous diseases at a very early stage when they are not visible through other diagnostic methods. A PET scan is a type of nuclear medicine exam that produces a 3D image of processes that take place inside the body. By introducing a tiny bit of radioactive material into the body and observing its behavior, a PET scan can give doctors valuable insight into how your body is working at that moment.
The radioactive material is referred to as a tracer. Depending on the area of your body that is being tested, you will receiver the tracer by injection, swallow it, or inhale it as a gas. After giving your body time to absorb the material, a special scanner will pick up areas of higher concentration of the tracer, indicating increased chemical or metabolic activity, which could mean the presence of a possible abnormality.
Doctors look for different patterns in the PET scan, depending on the suspected condition, for example:
Cancer – If your doctor suspects you have cancer or wants to confirm a cancer diagnosis, a PET scan can help. Cancerous cells consume energy and grow faster than regular cells. Because of this, cancer cells are highlighted by the tracer in a PET scan. In this way, a PET scan can track the progression of cancer if you were previously diagnosed, or the extent to which treatment was effective. A PET scan is a powerful tool that makes fighting cancer possible at earlier stages and indicates if a particular treatment should be continued or stopped. Once cancer is in remission, a patient may be periodically asked to undergo a PET scan to see if the cancer has returned.
Heart disease – A PET scan can indicate the extent of blockage in the arteries by showing how much blood is able to pass through them. Possible areas of concern can then be assessed for possible interventions like angioplasty. A PET scan will also show if there has been a heart attack and if areas of the heart were affected. Artery blockage, if present in other areas of the body can also be seen by PET scan.
Brain disorders – An important area of application for PET scans are conditions affecting the brain. Doctors can get a detailed picture of brain tumors, measure the effect of a seizure, and diagnose the presence of depression, Alzheimer’s, and more. PET scan technology has made it possible for Alzheimer’s damage to be detected and distinguished from dementia. In the past, it could not be diagnosed for certain while the patient was alive. Patients suffering from depression can have their progress measured and even determine which treatment is most appropriate given their specific chemical imbalance.
PET scans allow for early and accurate diagnosis of many conditions in a detail not possible through other methods. Although the idea of having a PET scan may be intimidating, having this information means getting an accurate diagnosis in less time.
For more than 30 years, Independent Imaging of Palm Beach County, Florida, has served patients with experienced and caring radiologists and technicians. We provide PET scans and communicate the results to your doctor as quickly as possible. Call (561) 795-5558 for an appointment at any of our convenient locations.