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A Patient's Guide to PET/CT Scans

A PET/CT scan is a combined test that involves a positron emission tomography (PET) scan and a computed tomography (CT) scan. A PET scan is a nuclear medicine test, which means it uses radioactive tracers. A CT scan uses X-rays to produce internal images of the body. If you have any questions or concerns about undergoing a PET/CT scan, a radiology specialist at Concord Imaging Center in San Antonio will be happy to discuss them with you. PET - Scan

Reasons for PET/CT Scans

Combined PET and CT scans are helpful for diagnosing a variety of medical problems, including cancer. This exam can aid in the initial diagnosis of cancer and in staging cancer, which refers to determining whether the cancer has spread. PET/CT scans can also help doctors evaluate how well cancer treatments are working and whether cancer has returned after treatment. Another common reason for undergoing a PET/CT scan is to evaluate the functioning of the heart. It may be used for assessing the damage inflicted by a heart attack and for planning cardiac surgeries.

Preparations for PET/CT Scans

The imaging center will give you directions to follow ahead of your appointment. You may be asked to avoid eating anything and drinking anything that contains calories for a few hours before the appointment. You can drink plain water. If you’re a diabetic, the radiologist may give you different instructions. Your radiologist will need to know if any of the following applies to you:

  • You are pregnant or might be pregnant.
  • You are breastfeeding.
  • You have removable dental work or hearing aids.
  • You’re taking any medications or supplements.
  • You have any allergies, particularly to seafood, iodine, and contrast materials.

Steps of PET/CT Scans

When you arrive at the imaging center, you may be asked to change into a hospital gown before lying on an exam table. You’ll receive the radioactive tracer, which may be inhaled, swallowed, or given intravenously. It will take the tracer a while to travel around your body. You’ll be asked to lie quietly during this time. Then, you’ll be positioned in the scanner, where you’ll also need to remain still. It generally takes about 30 minutes to perform a PET and CT scan.