PET – CT Scanning Vs Cancer

Over the past 2 decades, computed tomography (CT) has been the gold standard in the diagnosis and treatment planning of a variety of cancers. People

Over the past 2 decades, computed tomography (CT) has been the gold standard in the diagnosis and treatment planning of a variety of cancers. People with lung, breast, spinal, and other cancers have reaped the benefits of CTs ability to provide clear images of the body’s various organs. While CT provides high-quality images of cancerous areas, it doesn’t help the doctor see the body’s function, which makes it impossible to catch all cancers. PET scanning fills much of that void.

Short for positron emission tomography scanning, PET scanning has rapidly become a staple in oncology imaging. By definition, cancer cells are very active, multiplying at an abnormal rate. PET scanners visualize the activity of the body’s cells, making it possible to see active cancer growths before other technologies like CT can. PET also has the additional capability of showing a physician whether a growth is cancerous or not.

A Terrific Team

Imaging experts have recently begun appreciating the complementary uses of PET and CT scanning and have spent the last few years searching for better ways to combine them. Originally, imaging professionals performed CT and PET scans separately–sometimes even on different days. A radiologist would then take the separate images and evaluate them side by side, searching for irregularities that may indicate cancer.

Computer software eventually made it possible to place the CT and PET images on top of each other to view at the same time. However, it was nearly impossible to transfer a patient from one exam to the next without having some sort of change in the patient’s position or the position of the patient’s internal organs. Because of this, the images rarely lined up precisely.

The Right Fit

In 2002, the first commercially available PET/CT combination scanner took away these problems by combining CT and PET scans in a single examination. With this advance, the patient now receives both the CT and PET scans before the exam is complete. Rather than attempting to switch back and forth between film images or make sense of misaligned CT and PET images, radiologists can examine PET and CT scans directly on top of one another. As a result, diagnoses are more precise and radiologists are more confident in their findings.

Since the conception of PET/CT scanning, this new innovation has proven to be an important tool in the battle against cancer. Thanks to clearer and more aligned images, radiologists can better pinpoint cancerous cells, helping oncologists to target radiation therapy directly on cancerous cells. More precise radiation therapy means less radiation exposure to surrounding, healthy tissues, which lowers side effects of radiation therapy.

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