When a trip to a doctor’s office results in an order to report at an imaging center to have a PET scan performed, many people may find themselves just a little baffled. After all, this diagnostic procedure with a funny sounding name isn’t ordered as routinely as a simple X-ray that most people are familiar with.
So, just want is a PET scan, and why might your doctor have ordered one?
PET stands for positron emission tomography. This imaging procedure has the same basic aim as an X-ray: to see inside the body. Unlike an X-ray, however, PET scans use radioactive tracer drugs to enable them to see structures inside the body in much greater depth and detail than an X-ray can provide. While X-rays are excellent at picking up bony structures, they fall short of the mark when it comes to organs and tissues and how they’re functioning. PET scans enable doctors to “see” inside without actually going inside.
The radioactive tracer is what helps make a PET scan such a powerful tool. These low-dose medications are specifically designed for the type of PET procedure a doctor needs performed. Once tracers enter the body, they collect in areas that have higher levels of chemical activity, which generally are those where disease or other concerns are present. The areas where tracers collect show up as bright spots on the resulting PET scan. Depending on the type of PET scan performed, this imaging test is very helpful for helping doctors diagnose or monitor such conditions as brain disorders, heart disease and even cancer. PET scans can provide in-depth information that other diagnostics, such as those X-rays, CTs and MRIs, cannot.
While the specific reason a doctor may order a PET scan vary based on the personal case, there is an overarching reason why this test is so valuable. PET scans enable a doctor to see inside the body without having to perform a surgical procedure. This is why, for example, a PET might be used to confirm a suspected case of cancer or help gauge tumor size and location prior to surgical removal.
When a doctor orders a PET scan, patients will find there is simply a need for more in-depth information than other diagnostic procedures can provide. The test is painless, but may be a little uncomfortable for some. The good news, however, is it doesn’t generally take that long once the tracer drug has been administered. To find out why a PET scan has been ordered or if there are specific pre-test orders, such as fasting, be sure to consult with a personal physician.
By Amandad from Pixabay