Positron emission tomography (PET) and computerized tomography (CT) are both state-of-the-art imaging tools that allow physicians to pinpoint the location of cancer within the body before making treatment recommendations. The highly sensitive PET scan images the biology of disorders at the molecular level, while the CT scan provides a detailed picture of the body's internal anatomy. The PET/CT scan combines the strengths of these two well-established imaging modalities into a single scan.
A CT scan is able to detect and localize changes in the body structure or anatomy, such as the size, shape and exact location of an abnormal growth, a sizeable tumor or a musculoskeletal injury.
A PET scan is very different from an ultrasound, X-ray, MRI, or CT scan. A PET scan
allows the physician to distinguish between living and dead tissue or between benign
and malignant disorders. Since a PET scan images the biology of disorders at the molecular
level, it can help the physician detect abnormalities in cellular activity at a very early
stage, generally before anatomic changes are visible.
Alone, each imaging test has particular benefits and limitations but by combining these two
state-of the-art technologies, physicians can more accurately diagnose, localize and monitor cancer, as well as heart disease and certain brain disorders.
The majority of PET/CT scans are performed for oncologic applications. Physicians utilize PET/CT scans for diagnosing, staging and evaluating treatments for their cancer patients.
In one continuous whole-body scan, PET/CT captures images of changes in the body's metabolism caused by actively growing cancer cells.