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Cancer – PET Scan

Sanjay Juneja, MD Sanjay Juneja, MD February 11, 2021


"So, if you're being worked up for a cancer, your oncologist may mention something called a PET scan. What a PET scan is, it's basically like a CT scan, which takes a lot of different pictures or cuts of your body and looks at it under a full image, a whole bunch of different pictures. But a PET scan is unique in that it actually lights up oftentimes where cancer is. And the reason it does that is you're going to see the light up where glucose or sugars are being used. So if you get a PET scan, everyone should have their brain light up because their central nervous system is constantly working. But the things that are cancerous usually are kind of very hot or using up glucose or energy as well, and so this product that they put into you before getting the image will show those areas of light up.

And it's a way that we stage patients to see where is cancer also involved. One important point about it though, is your tumor has to be a certain size for it to light up. So if your tumor is, say, around half a centimeter, or even under a centimeter, depending on what type it is, it may not necessarily light up. So a PET scan isn't this guarantee of like, well, if it's negative, it's definitely negative. In addition, there are a couple of tumor types that aren't quite as ""PET hot"" or ""PET avid"" is what we call it, to where again, the fact they're saying negative may not necessarily mean that it is, but it is very good, and the tumor types that we know are hot when we get a PET scan and it helps us look at the whole body other than basically the brain."

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