P.E.T Scan: A New Weapon in Medicine

P.E.T scans (Positron Emission Tomography) have been used in research for a long while, but are being utilized more in mainstream medicine. Unlike C.A.T (Computerized Axial Tomography) scans or M.R.I’s (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), P.E.T. scans show actual metabolic images of disease processes in the body. As there are no other metabolic imaging resources other than this one, they are rapidly becoming a formidable weapon in the war against cancer, Alzheimers and cardiac disorders.

Just what is Positron Emission Tomography? Here is a typical scenario for it’s use. Your physician finds a lump or suspicious mass upon reading your mammogram. Instead of rushing to biopsy, he decides to order a P.E.T. scan to try and ascertain what it is. You are given an appointment, and instructions asking you not to eat anything for at least 8 hours prior to testing. Drinking water is fine. You are also advised to wear comfortably loose clothing, and report an hour or so prior to the actual scan.

Once there, you are asked to lie down on a cushioned table, and an I.V. containing a glucose solution tagged with a radioactive substance is started. After the infusion is complete, you’re usually asked to lie there, relaxed, and moving as little as possible. This is because the glucose/radioactive solution needs to work effectively by seeking out areas that would draw up sugars.

You are then taken to a machine that looks like a big doughnut, and you are placed inside, and asked to lie still while the scan is being done. This normally takes around 30-40 minutes. Any cancerous areas will have taken up the solution and will show up much brighter than other colors on your scan. The real value of this form of imaging is that it can spot very, very early cancers accurately. In the picture accompanying this article, you can see the dots which are tiny nodes starting to grow.
Your physician will have your report usually within 48-72 hours after the scan. At your appointment, he/she will be armed with much more information about your cancer, where it is located and if it has metastisized. This provides the physician with the best information on your cancer, so it can be treated appropreiaitely and quickly.

Another use for P.E.T is looking for organic brain diseases such as Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, seizure disorders, depression or tumors. It can image an area prior to neurosurgery, so that the surgeon knows within a micrometer what area he might impact during the operation. This is invaluable in avoiding post surgical damage, when operating on the brain. It is also being used to help evaluate damage to the brain caused by stroke. Coupled with M.R.I’s and C.A.T. scans, the neurosurgeons now have access to more detailed information about the brain and its disease processes than ever before.

“PET is one of the most popular scanning techniques in current neuroscience research” (PBS.org).

Cardiologists now have a much more refined form of imaging the heart and the surrounding vessels. With P.E.T, they can instantaneously see whether heart muscle is merely compromised or dead, whether vessels are blocked and how badly, and a host of other pieces of critical care information. In fact, P.E.T is the most accurate test available to determine impaired blood flow and whether or not a patient has coronary artery disease. “It is the gold standard for deciding whether a patient is a candidate for bypass surgery or heart transplantation.” ibid: P.E.T. and Heart Disease.

Given that this test causes no side effects in patients, and little to no discomfort, save for the I.V. insertion, and yet furnishes your physician with an accurate picture of your system, this is information every patient needs to be aware of. If your doctor is not familiar yet with P.E.T., you can furnish him/her with this link, which is designed to educate physicians about its uses. http://www.petscaninfo.com/PhysicianPortal

Around 900,000 P.E.T. scans were performed in 2004, by 2010 that figure is projected to be over 2,000,000. The average cost is between $3,000-$6,000, which most major insurance companies cover. That cost is small against the saving of your life or the lives of those you love.

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