Radiology and Imaging
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
Positron emission tomography (PET) scans are available in La Crosse, Wisconsin. A PET scan is an imaging test that reveals how your tissues and organs are functioning. When you have a PET scan, a radioactive drug, or tracer, is used to show this activity. The scan sometimes can detect disease before it shows up on other imaging tests. Depending on which organ or tissue is being studied, the tracer can be injected, swallowed or inhaled. The tracer collects in areas of your body that have higher levels of chemical activity, which often correspond to diseased areas. On a PET scan, these areas show up as bright spots.
A PET scan can identify a variety of conditions, including many cancers, heart disease and brain disorders. Images from a PET scan provide information different from those provided by other types of scans, such as a CT scan or an MRI. A PET scan or a combined CT-PET scan enables your health care provider to better diagnose an illness and assess your condition.
A PET scan must be interpreted carefully because noncancerous conditions can look like cancer, and some cancers do not appear on PET scans.
Many types of solid tumors appear on PET scans, including:
- Head and neck
PET scan risks
Talk with your health care provider about the benefits and risks of a PET scan. If you are scheduled for a PET scan, a radioactive drug, or tracer, will be put into your body. Because the amount of radiation you will be exposed to is small, the risks of negative effects are low.
However, the tracer may:
- Cause a major allergic reaction in rare instances
- Expose your unborn baby to radiation if you are pregnant
- Expose your child to radiation if you are breastfeeding
What to expect before and during a PET scan
Your provider will give you detailed instructions on how to prepare for your scan. The PET scanner is a large machine that looks like a giant doughnut standing upright, and it is similar to a CT machine. In some medical institutions, a combined CT-PET scanner is used.
You will need about two hours for the procedure. When you arrive for your scan, you may be asked to change into a hospital gown and empty your bladder. You will then be given the radioactive tracer and will wait for 30 to 60 minutes before starting the scan. This allows your body to absorb the tracer.
The procedure is painless. You will lie on a narrow, padded table that slides into the scanner. During the scan, you must remain still so the images are clear. It takes about 30 minutes to complete the procedure. The machine makes buzzing and clicking sounds. If you're afraid of enclosed spaces, you may feel some anxiety. Be sure to tell the nurse or technologist about your anxiety, so he or she can notify the health care provider you need medication to help you relax.
PET scan results
A radiologist will report the findings to your health care provider. The radiologist also may compare your PET scan images with images from other tests you've completed, such as a CT scan or an MRI, or the images may be combined to provide more detail about your condition.