Healthcare Services and Programs

What is a PET/CT scan?
PET stands for Position Emission Tomography.  It is a test that detects changes in the body on a cellular level.  Since cellular changes take place before physical ones do, PET can help your doctor make an earlier diagnosis or determine if your current treatment is working effectively.

CT stands for Computerized Tomography. It is an x-ray test that creates a detailed view of the physical structure of your organs and tissue. The CT scan can show the dimensions of your vessels, lymph nodes and organ systems.

A PET/CT scan combines both technologies into one machine. It provides:

  • A picture of cellular function (PET)
  • A picture of physical structure (CT)
  • A merged picture of the body's cellular function and physical structure

What can I expect during my PET/CT exam?
Before the scan, you will be injected with a radioactive tracer. The tracer is a compound similar to sugar.  You will be asked to rest for 60 minutes while the tracer is distributed though your body.

The technologist will ask you to lie down on the scanner table, which will slowly pass through the scanner. The PET scanner detects and records the signals given off by the tracer.

The signals are then put together into actual images through computer processing. The radiologist will read the images and contact your primary care doctor.  Your doctor will discuss the results with you.  

What are the benefits of PET/CT?

  • The exam is painless and safe.
  • Provides earlier detection of recurrent cancer.
  • Tells the difference between non-malignant (benign) and malignant tumors.
  • Reduces invasive procedures and multiple tests.
  • Avoids unnecessary surgery.
  • Accurately assesses the location and stage of the malignant disease.
  • Locates previously unknown metastases.
  • Reduces the time to diagnosis and leads to earlier treatment.

What should I do to prepare for my PET/CT exam?

  • No food during the six hours before your exam
  • Eat a light dinner the night before your exam
  • Drink only water the day of your exam, preferably 16-24 ounces of water before the exam
  • Do not have any caffeine- this includes tea, coffee, etc.
  • No chewing gum
  • No chewing tobacco
  • Take any prescribed medications on the day of your exam, unless otherwise instructed by your doctor
  • Shower the night before your exam, not the day of your exam
  • Do not exercise- stay calm, quiet and relaxed
  • Wear comfortable clothes
  • Leave all valuables at home
  • Review patient exam preparation instructions
  • Arrive 30 minutes prior to your exam
  • No family members are allowed in with you during the exam  

Can I eat or drink before the exam?
This will depend on the type of study.  Please ask your physician for specific information.

If you are a diabetic, please notify the individual who is scheduling your PET/CT exam.  Special arrangements may need to be made in advance.  

How long will the exam take?
Most patients can expect the entire exam to take approximately two hours.  The type of study will determine the exact time of the exam.

How will I feel after the exam?
You should feel fine. There are no documented side effects from the injected tracer.