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Positron emission tomography or a PET scan is an examination that involves the usage of small amounts of an injected radiopharmaceutical to diagnose, treat, and manage diseases. PET scans are a common part of treatment plans for cancer, heart-related diseases, and the brain.

How Does It Work?

A PET scan utilizes an injected radiopharmaceutical called Fluorine-18-deoxyglucose (FDG), which is a modified sugar molecule. The modified fluorine molecule emits a small, but detectable, amount of radioactivity that can be sensed and measured by a specialized scanner.

Because it is treated like sugar by the body, the injected (FDG) accumulates in tissues that have a high rate of metabolic activity, including the brain, heart, and any possible tumor cells. This technology is highly sensitive and allows our doctors to diagnose and localize abnormalities.


The Advantages of PET Scan

PET scans measure your body tissues’ metabolism, and is very sensitive for detecting early recurrent tumor, even before the disease is easily felt or visible. PET scans can also help differentiate a benign versus malignant tumor, even when other tests are inconclusive.

PET scans typically cover most of the body, allowing our doctors to scan and evaluate large areas of interest in one exam.

Follow-up PET scans (done every six months or yearly) allow for the evaluation of disease over time, to help your doctor to properly stage and assess your response to treatments.

Do I Need A PET Scan?

PET scans are most typically used to evaluate:

  • The staging of cancers and evaluating response to treatment
  • A pulmonary nodule to help differentiate benign vs malignant
  • For Alzheimer’s dementia

FAQ and the Experience: Everything You Need To Know

How do I prepare for a PET scan?

Individual instructions may vary, but general guidelines include:

  • No food 4 hrs prior to your appointment; water is ok; avoid sugary and high-carb foods the day of the exam
  • Most medications are ok to take, with water. If you are diabetic, please let our office know at the time of scheduling
  • No heavy exercise for 48 hours prior to your scan
  • If you have had a prior CT or PET scan elsewhere, please bring copies and a report with you the day of your scan.
How long does a PET scan last?

Including the injection and wait time for the radiotracer to distribute through your body, the average exam takes about 2 hours.

Will I be exposed to harmful levels of radiation?

No. The amount of radiation exposure is minimal. Drinking extra fluids afterwards helps to clear the radiopharmaceutical from your system. If you feel any symptoms after the procedure such as nausea, pain, itching, etc., please notify our staff immediately.

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