PET/CT imaging combines two state-of-the-art scanner technologies into one exam. Small lesions or tumors can be detected with PET, then located with CT.
It requires a small amount of radioactive glucose to detect cancers of the breast, esophagus, cervix, lung, colon, rectum, head, neck, ovaries and thyroid, as well as melanoma and lymphoma.
How Does it Work?
Your cells and body tissue useglucose, a type of sugar for energy. PET technology uses glucose, chemically attached to a tracer drug and a small, safe amount of a radiopharmaceutical, to help isolate a disease. The radiation in the radiopharmaceutical is equivalent to that of a few chest X-rays.
The solution is injected into your blood stream and the tracer drug emits signals as it travels through your body and collects in the organs your physician wants to study. A scanner then records these signals and converts them into detailed images that show normal and abnormal organ functioning.
What to Expect
Depending on the type of scan, you'll be asked not to eat or drink after midnight,or 4-6 hours for afternoon appointments, on the day before your test. You should plan on spending two to three hours for the entire procedure.
First, one of our certified technologists will insert an IV catheter into a vein, usually in your arm, and inject the tracer drug. It generally takes about 30 minutes to an hour for the tracer drug to distribute itself throughout your body. If you're having a brain scan, you'll be asked to wait quietly, without talking or reading, to avoid stimulating your brain. Heart scan patients may not need to wait at all.
Next, you'll be asked to lie on a table that slides into the PET scanner, a donut-shaped machine that looks like a CT scanner. The scan itself takes anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, and you should feel nothing as your body passes through the scanner. It is important to lie as still as possible on the scanning table so that images will be clear.
After the scan, you may eat and drink immediately unless otherwise directed by your physician. The small amounts of radiopharmaceuticals from the procedure should be out of your system within a few hours.
Scheduling a PET Scan
A PET scan requires a prescription from your physician. For a free physician referral, call 1-888-MD-RWJUH (1-888-637-9584). To schedule a scan, call 908-685-2930.
Insurance coverage for a PET scan depends on each patient's policy. Please contact your insurance plan for more information.