PET Scan 101

Our team at Rosetta Radiology understands that the concept of PET scans can be hard for patients with no experience with diagnostic imaging to wrap their heads around, so we hope this PET scan overview will make their purpose more clear.

What is a PET Scan?

A PET, short for positron emission tomography, scan is an imaging technique that aids in revealing diseases present in the body. The tracers, a radioactive dye, is injected into the body, absorbed by the body’s organs and tissues, and then a PET scan reveals how well these organs and tissues are doing their job.

How do we use PET Scans at Rosetta?

When a patient comes in to Rosetta for a PET/CT, they’re injected with the radiotracer. A radiotracer is typically a combination of a radioactive medicine that’s been tagged with a natural chemical, something like glucose or water or ammonia. The radiotracer is either injected or swallowed by the patient, and spreads throughout the body.

The trick is that while inside the body, the radiotracer will go to areas that use the natural chemical associated with it. So in the case of cancer, patients are usually given radiotracers that are tagged with glucose. The glucose goes into the parts of the body that use glucose for energy, and these spots show up in the images from the scan. The images also help highlight abnormalities in the levels and production of glucose. Because cancers use glucose differently than normal tissue do, these abnormalities show up in the PET images and can help physicians detect cancer.

Why do we use CT Scans with PET?

Alone, PET scans can only identify abnormalities and provide physicians with a generalized location for the issues. This is where the CT component comes in.  A CT scan uses computers and x-ray technology to create images of the inside of the body. When you combine a PET scan with a CT scan, doctors are not only able to view any abnormalities that are present, the CT also helps pinpoint the exact location of the issues. 

When combined, PET and CT are powerful tools that can help lead to early diagnosis and treatment when it comes to cancer and a number of other diseases.  

If you have any questions regarding out PET/CT scans, contact and we’ll be happy to help! 

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