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3 Benefits Of Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

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Positron emission tomography (PET) is one of several types of imaging tests that can be used to diagnose and monitor conditions affecting the internal organs. In some cases, the use of PET scans offers additional benefits than only using computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Staging And Monitoring Cancer

When a malignant mass has been identified in a patient, it is necessary to determine the stage of cancer. The stage can dictate treatment options and if surgery is a viable option. If the primary tumor has been removed, a surgeon typically removes lymph nodes surrounding the primary mass to determine if any of the nodes tests positive for cancer. PET scans can be used in addition to lymph node testing to determine if there is distant metastasis of the primary tumor.

Unfortunately, metastatic cancer does not always move in a predictable fashion. Although lymph nodes may not test positive for cancer, this does not guarantee the cancer has not spread to other organs. The tracer used in PET scan will cause areas with increased metabolic activity to become illuminated on the scan. High concentrations of the tracer in specific areas can be indicative of cancerous lesions throughout the body. PET scans may be used throughout treatment of cancer to determine if chemo and/or radiation therapy is effectively shrinking cancerous tumors or at least preventing the spread of cancer.

Differentiation Of Brain Tumors

There are many types of brain tumors, both benign and malignant, and it is not always possible to determine the type of tumor based on CT or MRI. Some tumors, such as meningiomas, may have a characteristic look on MRI depending on their location within the brain. This makes it easier for neurosurgeons to develop a treatment plan even before the tumor is removed and sent to pathology for confirmation.

PET can help with differentiation of tumors before surgery occurs. Based on the results of a PET scan, the surgeon may be able to tell if they are dealing with a benign or malignant brain tumor, which can dictate how they should proceed with treatment. For example, if the tumor is most likely malignant, the surgeon may want to use radiation therapy to shrink the tumor to a manageable size before surgery.

Viewing Heart Function

Since CT and MRI can identify the structure of the heart, but not its actual function, PET can show the function of the heart muscle. Several conditions can weaken the heart or prevent adequate blood flow to the heart, such as heart failure or a heart attack. PET scans may be used to determine the severity of heart problems and whether they warrant management with medication or assistive devices, or require a heart transplant. For people with cardiac conditions that require a heart transplant, the results of periodic imaging tests may dictate their place on the heart transplant list and whether or not they are well enough to attempt a transplant.

PET scans have numerous uses because they can give more detailed information than CT or MRI alone. Additionally, when used in conjunction with other imaging tests, PET offers a non-invasive approach to the diagnosis and management of various medical conditions. Contact a company like SAH GLOBAL to learn more.