PET scan images can provide important information about many disorders that affect the heart, lung, brain, bones, liver etc and will help the doctor plan appropriate treatment for you.
PET images are different than those from more conventional radiological studies such as CT scan, Ultrasound, or MRI. PET scans are based on the metabolic activity and function of the organs. The images contain information on the function of a tissue rather than a static image like any x ray.
What can PET scan do?
PET can help doctors locate the presence of cancer/infection anywhere in the body. Because cancers are multiplying and require energy for growth, the PET scan is designed to detect any mass that is growing fast. The PET scan involves the use of radioactive glucose which is injected into the body. The glucose is taken up by the cancer cells and this activity can be monitored by the PET scan. PET scan has the ability to identify tumors in their very early phase. The PET scan can also detect the spread of cancer in other parts of the body.
What is FDG?
A glucose molecule which has been tagged with a small amount of radioactive element is known as FDG. This product is injected into the body during a PET scan. The radioactive glucose is taken up by the cancer cells and then these cancer cells can be identified. This glucose molecule only stays in the body for about 2 hrs and is then excreted. The amount of glucose injected is miniscule and has no affect on diabetic patients
What is difference between a PET scan and CT or MRI scans?
CT and MRI scans are can assess the size and shape of different organs in the body. They do not assess function. A PET scan is a metabolic imaging modality, which means it looks at function. The information collected from a PET scan is different from any other test that is available.
PET scanning is the most sensitive test for detecting cancer and its location. When used in conjunction with other radiological tests like Ultrasound, CT Scans and/or MRI, it is very effective in the detection of cancer or its spread.
Can I eat or drink before my scan?
Generally one is asked not to eat 4-6 hours before the test.
How does the procedure work?
Before the procedure can be done, an IV is started in the hand. A small amount of radioactive chemical (usually glucose) is injected into the blood stream. The amount of radioactive glucose is too small to have any side effects. This glucose is sterile and safe for IV use. The radiation exposure associated with PET scan is similar to that associated with a CT scan. Once the glucose is injected, one has to wait for about an hour to allow for glucose to distribute in the body. One is then asked to lie down on a table and the body is scanned. The total time one will spend at the clinic is about 2-3 hors, but the actual scanning only takes a few minutes.
Is the procedure painful?
There is no pain associated with the procedure. There are no side effects and all individual are discharged home soon after the procedure. The occasional individual will feel flushed at the time of injection of the glucose. The only pain involved is the needle prick when the IV is started.
Are there potential side effects to a PET scan?
The PET scan has no side effects. The amount of radiation exposure is minimal and the radioactive glucose is rapidly excreted from the body. There is no risk of exposure of radiation to the family
When will I get my results?
After the procedure is done, the images are printed and processed. The images are read by a radiologist. Your PET scan results will be sent to your physician generally within 24-48 hours of your PET scan.
Are there alternatives to PET?
PET scan is generally not the first diagnostic or screening test. A PET scan is done when the results of a CT scan or an MRI are not conclusive. PET scans are more sensitive for identification of cancers and infections.
How often should I have a PET scan?
Generally if the initial PET scan is negative, then a follow up scan can be done every five years. However, one has to understand that despite a negative PET scan, nothing replaces a regular physical exam and evaluation by a physician.
Is PET Scan covered by Insurance
PET Scans for certain disorders and many cancers is covered by Medicare and most insurance companies. For those who have no coverage, assistance will be provided with payments.
How much does a PET scan cost?
A PET scan generally costs anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000.