Why We Do It
The majority of PET/CT scans are performed for oncologic applications. Physicians utilize PET/CT scans for diagnosing, staging, re-staging and evaluating treatments for their patients. The scan helps distinguish between benign and malignant disorders by assessing tissues at a cellular level.
A PET/CT scan can also show the extent of disease. For patients whose cancer is newly diagnosed, it is important to determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body so that appropriate treatment can begin as soon as possible. A PET/CT scan images the entire body in a single examination, and aids the physician in detecting the primary site(s) as well as any metastases. Thanks to a PET/CT scan, painful, costly and invasive surgery, such as thoracotomy, may no longer be necessary for diagnosis.
The scan will also help physicians monitor the treatment of disease. For example, chemotherapy leads to changes in cellular activity that is observable by PET/CT long before structural changes can be measured by CT alone. This gives physicians an alternative technique to evaluate treatment plans earlier, perhaps even leading to modifications in treatment, before an evaluation would normally be made using other imaging technologies.
After treatment is complete, a PET/CT scan allows the physician to investigate suspected recurrence of cancer, revealing tumors that might otherwise be obscured by scar tissue resulting from surgery and radiation therapy.