Positron Emission Tomography/Computer Tomography (PET/CT)

A PET/CT scan is a state-of-the art scanner that combines Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and high-speed multi-slice Computerized Tomography (CT) imaging. The integrated PET/CT scanner joins the best of both imaging modalities in one system.  A CT shows the anatomical location of abnormality seen on PET.  Our PETCT scanner is located in the Lafayette Family Cancer Center in Brewer, our new home for state-of-the-art cancer treatment. We obtained accreditation of this unit in 2013 through the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC). 

PET/CT is a procedure that adds a new dimension to a provider’s ability to diagnose and manage a disease. It can be used to diagnose diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and neurological disease. PET/CT detects changes in the cellular function instead of detecting changes in the physical size or structure of internal organs. Since cellular function takes place before physical change, PET/CT can provide information that enables a provider to make an earlier diagnosis or determine if current treatment is working effectively. Even if a previous CT or MRI detected disease or abnormalities, PET/CT can help, because PET/CT can often characterize the cellular function early in the course of the disease process. These capabilities can help a provider determine quickly the best possible treatment while avoiding more invasive exams or exploratory surgery.

What can I expect during my PET/CT?
Before the scan, you will be injected with a radioactive tracer. The tracer is a compound such as sugar, labeled with a short-lived radioisotope. You will be asked to rest for approximately 45 minutes while the radioactive compound distributes throughout your body, and is processed by the organs being evaluated. The radiation exposure associated with PET/CT is safe and about the same exposure associated with conventional CT scanning.

After the waiting period, the technologist will ask you to lie on the scanner table. The table will slowly pass through the scanner to detect and record signals the tracer sends off. The signals are then reassembled into actual images through computer processing. Finally, the interpreting board-certified radiologist will read the images and contact your referring provider. Your referring provider will be the one to discuss your results with you.

What are the benefits to PET/CT?
  • The exam is painless, safe, and provides earlier detection of recurrent cancer.
  • Differentiates between non-malignant (benign) and malignant tumors.
  • Eliminates invasive procedures, multiple tests, and unnecessary surgery.
  • Assesses the location and the stage of malignant disease accurately.
  • Locates previously unknown metastases using a whole body survey.
  • Monitors the efficiency of patient care and management.
  • Reduces the time to diagnosis and leads to earlier treatment.
What should I do to prepare?
Depending on the type of study, you may be asked not to eat or drink anything four to six hours before the exam. If you are diabetic, please notify the individual who is scheduling your PET/CT exam. Special arrangements can be made in advance.

Before the appointment, be sure to dress in comfortable clothing, leaving all valuables at home. Take any prescribed medication on the day of the exam unless instructed not to do so by your provider. Finally, read the patient exam preparation instructions and arrive on time for the exam. Patients should expect to be at the PET/CT facility for at least one and a half to two hours. The type of study performed will determine the exact time of the exam.

How will I feel after the exam?
You should feel fine after your PET/CT exam. There are no documented side effects from the injected tracer.