What Should Patients Know About Their PET-CT Scan? – According to an Oncologist

07 Mar, 2022

PET-CT is a modern oncological imaging technique that provides comprehensive information, which, in turn, will help doctors carefully characterise the structural and biochemical alterations and see if a particular finding points towards cancer.

It is important for the patient to know what is happening with his diagnosis and treatment, and this is especially true when he/she is diagnosed with cancer. Patient-centric communication and shared decision making help in reducing the risk of patient errors and positively impact the treatment planning, patient’s treatment response and recovery.

Here are a few things that the patients must know about their PET-CT scan:

PET-CT is better than PET or CT scan alone.

A PET-CT scan provides better information than a PET or CT scan alone. A PET-CT scan combines the metabolic data with the anatomical information on the region surrounding the tumour. This information helps understand the specifics of the target area and plan the treatment carefully.

A PET-CT scan does more than merely detect the presence of a tumour.

A PET-CT scan is not just performed to find out whether or not there is a tumour in the suspected area. Results from a PET-CT scan are helpful in multiple areas of cancer care, such as staging, treatment planning, monitoring the treatment response, restaging and lastly, recurrence evaluation.

A PET-CT scan provides a lot of useful information in one go, and this helps oncologists carefully go through the results and recommend the best suitable treatment plan to the patients.

PET-CT scans are safe

Some worry about radiation exposure during the PET-CT scan. However, this imaging procedure is clinically proven to be safe. The radiotracers used during the scan become less radioactive and get eliminated from your body naturally in a few hours. Drinking plenty of fluid may help you flush it from your body.

The scan may last up to 90 minutes.

Before the scan, a radiotracer is injected into your body and it should be absorbed by the tissues in your body. This takes up to an hour. Once the technician injects the radiotracer, you will be asked to lie down and wait for the absorption to happen.

Later, the technologist will position you on the exam table and instruct you to lie down without any body movements. The scan may take around 30 – 45 minutes.

Talk to your doctor

If you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any oral medications, you should inform your treating doctor beforehand.

During the 6 hours before the scan, avoid eating or drinking anything. Also, you shouldn’t be exercising 24 hours prior to your scan as it may affect your metabolism and this, in turn, may affect the accuracy of the PET-CT results.

PET-CT scans could be claustrophobic

During the scan, you may hear whirring, buzzing and clicking sounds, which a few patients find uncomfortable. If you are uncomfortable with enclosed spaces, please inform your doctor or the PET-CT technologist so that they can take extra care during the scan.

The doctor may administer a mild sedative that will help you relax during the scan. Listening to the music, keeping your eyes closed, concentrating on your breathing, etc., are a few more things you can do to stay relaxed during the scan.

It is important to not let fear or misconceptions stop you from receiving the care you need. You can always talk to your treating doctor or the expert team about your concerns, and they will provide the right information and guide you in the right direction.

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