Dealing with cancer can be very daunting. However, advances in cancer researchers across the world have made it increasingly possible to not only cure cancer but also live a long and healthy life post-treatment. 

Full-recovery from cancer is premised on early detection of what can become a life-threatening disease in its later stages. Early stage cancer detection has been revolutionized by medical advancements such as barium enema, tumor marker tests, sigmoidoscopy, and many others. These testing methods have made it successively easier to detect cancer in its earliest stages, before it metastasizes, or spreads to other parts of the body. 

One such powerful method of detecting cancer in its early stages is positron emission tomography-computed tomography, commonly referred to as PET-CT scan. A type of nuclear medication, PET-CT scan uses radioactive substances to diagnose cancer. 

What is a PET-CT scan?

A PET-CT scan is a combination of two kinds of scans. The first part of a PET-CT scan is a positron emission tomography, also known as a PET scan. A PET scan uses nuclear medication to get functional images of a patient’s body. Functional images shed light on the metabolic and biochemical functions of our body. A radioactive agent, fluorine-18, is used for the imaging process. The PET scanner then works to detect pairs of gamma rays emitted by this positron-emitting radioactive tracer. 

The second element of a PET-CT scan is an X-ray computed tomography, also known as a CT scan where multiple images of the same part of the body are taken from different angles. These images are then processed and combined on a computer to produce images (virtual “slices”) of the specific area that has been scanned. The anatomic imaging in a CT scan allows the doctor to gain an accurate idea of the physical structure of a patient’s body. It is, essentially, a non-invasive way to look inside the body of a patient. 

The functional imaging from a PET scan, combined with the anatomical imaging from a CT scan, creates a single superposed image in a PET-CT scan. 

What information does the PET-CT scan convey?

The image created by the PET-CT scan helps:

  • Detect the presence of cancer
  • Determine the stage of cancer-based on the size and proportions of the tumour. 
  • Assessing treatment options like radiation therapy and surgical planning.

Doctors also use PET-CT scans to:

  • Find the right place to do a biopsy. 
  • Find out if the cancer treatment is working. 
  • Evaluate how well the treatment has worked.
  • Plan radiation therapy.

By detecting cancer in its early stages and providing accurate information about its stage and development, a PET-CT scan helps you treat cancer effectively, giving you a better chance to beat it.

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