How PET/CT Works
As a combination of a Positron Emission Tomography and Computed Tomography, PET/CT is a method of producing excellent 3 dimensional images that can show the form and function of the inside of a patients body.
These 3 dimensional images are so highly defined that they provide important information on a patient’s medical condition, therefore allowing a doctor to make a more informed, better choice on any treatment or surgery that maybe required.
PET/CT combines the strengths of its components to help physicians develop a more targeted treatment plan that would have previously been available to them, or the patient. This new method of treatment decreases the number, and severity, of invasive treatments and this exciting, innovative treatment has the power to save lives.
PET/CT offers a vast improvement in the way surgeons stage (gauge how long the cancer has been in the body) and treat malignant cancers offering a better chance at patient recovery. PET/CT is at least 33% better at diagnosing and locating lesions or tumours than separate PET scans and CT scans.
PET/CT scans provide computerized images of the person undergoing the scans entire body. The combined scanner has the capability to show precise changes in cell function, for example how the body utilizes nutrients. These cellular changes occur before any physical changes manifest in the body’s tissue and provide a vital earlier indication of cancer.
This early indication of cellular change is also accompanied by the exact location of the change, helping guide physicians in both diagnosis and treatment planning.
A PET/CT scan is a continuous full body scan that takes approximately 30minutes to complete. This breaks down to around 5minutes for a CT scan, which is carried out first, and 15-25minutes for the PET scan.
These full bodies scan analyses two separate medical fields:
1. Anatomical detail data: CT scan information
This detail looks at the internal structure of the body and helps the surgeons or physicians in three distinct ways:
· Identifies the location of a tumour – The CT scan that is performed first identifies the exact location of a tumour, or mass that needs investigating. This pinpoint location can be used, along with the PET scan, to provide as accurately as possible information that will be used to plan any surgery
· Identifies the size of a tumour – The CT scan can detect a mass that is only 4mm in size. This gives added benefit to surgeon as small lesions or tumours can be detected at an early stage, therefore giving the patient a better chance of being successfully treated. Also knowing the size of a tumour the physician can determine how long the tumour has been there, aiding them in both planning and deciding what course of therapy is need and if surgery is an option or even required.
· Identifies the shape of a tumour – Knowing the shape of a tumour can be critical to helping judge the best way to remove it. A tumour that is shaped strangely may not be a candidate for surgical removal as it may have spread into other regions.
2. Metabolic detail data: PET scan information
This detail looks at the metabolism or functional aspect of any tumour. Analyzing the biochemical function of a mass that maybe cancerous can have infinite value to a surgeon in the following ways:
· Shows Cellular activity - knowing the cellular activity or detecting bio-chemical changes of a tumour is extremely important because you can workout how far the cancer has developed, a technique known as staging. Knowing how far the cancer has developed can help the surgeon and patient decide what is the best course of action, in terms of treating a cancer. It can also signal whether a cancer is too far gone to be a candidate for surgical removal.
· Shows the blood flow around certain areas – this is mostly applicable to PET/CT use in cardiovascular diseases, where knowing the blood flow in an area can determine many medical conditions and ways to treat them
· Shows size of a tumour – Knowing the size of a mass gives added benefit to surgeon the physician can determine how long the exact extent of the tumour and aid him or her in both planning and deciding what course of therapy is need and if surgery is an option or even required.