Positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) is a form of diagnostic imaging so advanced it can detect cancer cells at a cellular level. It's a technology that Kirk Kanady, MD, and Maria Sosa, MD, of Greater Houston Radiation Oncology, use to diagnose early-stage cancer and assess cancer patients at all stages of their treatment. The practice has two offices in Houston, Texas, and one in Huntsville, Texas. Call the Greater Houston Radiation Oncology office nearest you today to find out how you could benefit from a PET/CT scan or book an appointment online.
PET is short for positron emission tomography, which is a type of diagnostic technique known as nuclear medicine imaging. CT is short for computed tomography, an advanced type of X-ray.
Your provider at Greater Houston Radiation Oncology uses PET/CT to:
PET/CT scans detect tissue changes at a cellular level, which means they can pick up cancers before they'd be detectable using other scanning technologies.
PET uses tiny amounts of radioactive materials called radiopharmaceuticals or radiotracers. These are molecules marked with a minute amount of radioactive material – just enough for the PET to detect.
Radiotracers build up in areas where there's a tumor or inflammation, which then shows up on the scan. Radiotracers also attach themselves to certain proteins in your body, helping to detect cancerous cells.
For example, the F-18 fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) radiotracer resembles glucose. Cancer cells, being more active than other cells, tend to absorb glucose more quickly. They also absorb FDG more quickly, which highlights any cancerous cells on the PET/CT scan.
CT is an advanced type of X-ray technology. The CT scanner takes multiple images to create highly detailed cross-sectional views of your body.
Superimposing nuclear medicine images (PET) using computed tomography (CT) is a technology known as image fusion or co-registration. It combines the information from the two types of exams into one image.
Doing this provides the most precise information and improves diagnostic accuracy. Almost all PET scans are now combined PET/CT scans.
Before your PET/CT scan, your provider at Greater Houston Radiation Oncology gives you the radiotracer. You might have an injection or need to swallow or inhale the radiotracer, depending on the focus of your scan.
It takes between 30 and 60 minutes for the cancer cells to absorb the radiotracer. You then go into the PET/CT scanner, which is a large ring-shaped machine big enough for your body to pass through. The CT scan happens first, then the PET scan.
You lie inside the ring as it rotates around your body, keeping very still to ensure the images are clear. You might be aware of the noises the machine makes as it captures the images.
A PET/CT scan is a painless procedure, although if you have an intravenous (IV) radiotracer, you might feel a little discomfort when the needle goes in. PET/CT scans typically take about 30 minutes but might take longer in some cases.
For more information about PET/CT scans, call Greater Houston Radiation Oncology today or book an appointment online.