Why Have a PET/CT Scan?
Your physician may have suggested a PET/CT scan for a number of reasons based on your medical history. PET/CT studies have been shown to be useful in three main clinical categories:
- Detection of cancer
- Determination of benign versus malignant lesions
- Staging of cancer
- Detection of cancer recurrence
- Seizure disorders
- Alzheimer’s Disease assessment
- Assessment of the heart to determine if tissue is viable (alive) for bypass surgery
- Blood flow assessment
PET/CT Assessment in Cancer
PET/CT is highly effective in the diagnosis of cancer and in determining the location of cancerous cells. PET/CT is uniquely capable in its ability to differentiate benign from malignant tissue, and may also be used to detect the recurrence of cancer.
Your physician may be looking for information on tissue metabolism that will help in treatment planning, whether it is surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy. If you have undergone radiation therapy, your physician may utilize PET/CT to determine if any new symptoms are related to recurrence of disease or the scarring or other changes to tissue brought about by the radiation treatment. PET/CT is the most accurate test available to determine if any new symptoms or changes in imaging studies are related to cancer recurrence or benign process.
In many types of cancer, diseased cells metabolize the sugar in FDG more avidly than normal cells, and so stand out clearly on a PET/CT scan. This is because cancerous cells grow at a faster rate than surrounding tissue, feeding on sugars like glucose.
PET/CT brings a number of benefits to cancer assessment and care. These include:
- Early detection and intervention. A PET/CT scan may reveal metabolic changes in the body prior to changes in structure that normally would show up on conventional medical imaging studies, such as MRI, CT, or x-ray.
- PET/CT can show whether tumor is benign or malignant. This can reduce the need for invasive diagnostic procedures, such as biopsies, and may prevent unnecessary surgeries.
- PET/CT can show the extent of disease. For newly diagnosed cancers, PET/CT can determine if cancer has spread, assisting I the choice of appropriate therapy.
- PET/CT is useful in follow-up. PET/CT can help your physician monitor tumor recurrence and show the effectiveness of therapy.
PET/CT Assessment in Neurology
PET/CT is a useful tool in assessing neurologic activity within the brain. PET/CT may be used to characterize various dementias, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, as well to determine the focus of epilepsy seizures. PET/CT is also used in assessing certain cancers of the brain, to determine if there is recurrence of cancer rather than changes brought about by radiation therapy.
Essentially all cancers and indications are covered for Medicare patients. Click here for printable table of coverage for Medicare patients.
PET/CT Assessment in Cardiology
Patients who have suffered a heart attack or who have advanced coronary artery disease are often referred to PET/CT. The PET/CT study will help the physician determine if there is viable, living cardiac tissue that will benefit from coronary artery bypass surgery.
PET/CT may be more accurate than other tests, such as Thallium SPECT imaging, in assessing viable tissue versus tissue that is irreversibly damaged and will not regain function through bypass surgery. PET/CT gives the cardiologist and cardiovascular surgeon information that can guide appropriate treatment and the direction of care.