PET/CT combines two imaging systems, positron emission tomography or PET and computer tomography or CT. PET imaging offers physicians a unique view of the body’s organs and tissues by showing metabolic changes in the body at a molecular level.
PET is a medical imaging tool which helps your doctor detect disease. PET scans produce digital pictures that can, in many cases, identify many forms of cancer, damaged heart tissue, and brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and epilepsy.
The use of PET makes sense for cancer patients in particular because cancer cells often have a much higher metabolic rate than surrounding tissues. This accelerated cellular activity stands out on the diagnostic images as a dark spot against lighter normal tissue. And because abnormal cellular changes can be easily imaged, information from PET can lead to earlier diagnosis of disease or abnormalities.
Traditionally, PET scans are compared to recent CT or other scans to determine the exact location of a metabolic hotspot. This method can be problematic especially in the head and neck areas where the body’s structures are relatively small and close together. PET/CT simplifies the process by providing a precise overlay of the PET and CT images. By combining two technologies, doctors have a better picture of the problem and can choose the best treatment options, helping patients avoid more invasive examinations or unnecessary surgeries.
Clinical experience shows that the PET/CT image provides valuable information that can be used for early diagnosis, more accurate tumor detection and precise localization, improved biopsy sampling, and better assessment of patient responses to chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
PET can also help doctors monitor the treatment of disease. The example above shows before and after scans. Chemotherapy leads to changes in cellular activity and that can be seen by PET long before changes can be measured by ultrasound, X-rays, CT, or MRI. A PET scan gives physicians another tool to evaluate treatments. That could lead to a change in treatment earlier than an evaluation could be made using other imaging technologies.
Southwest’s mobile PET/CT is available at the Medical Center each Tuesday. It arrives inside an 18-wheel semitruck and trailer and is situated directly west of the Cancer Center (Radiation Oncology) off 87th Avenue and 5th Street at the Medical Center campus
You will need a physician referral to receive a PET/CT.