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PET-CT Scans at the Department of Radiation Oncology

In addition to a CT scan, UPMC doctors use PET scans to get a better understanding of your body's organs and tissues. PET scans can detect abnormal activity and be more sensitive than other imaging tests.

What Is a PET-CT Scan?

PET-CT scanning is one of the most powerful diagnostic tools available. It allows doctors to discover the precise location of tumors.

PET-CT works by merging two imaging techniques, each of which records a different part of the body. PET-CT stands for:

  • PET stands for positron emission tomography.
  • CT stands for computed tomography.

Imaging Technique

  • PET creates an image that reflects your body's metabolic and biochemical activity using a low level of radiation, useful for targeting tumors.
    • You receive an injection with a small amount of radioactive sugar that the scanner can see through the body. Cancer cells — because they grow faster than healthy cells — often consume much of the sugar. This highlights their presence within the image, allowing the scanner to make precise images of the tumor.
  • CT sees a 360-degree view of the body, useful for taking 3D pictures.
    • Similar to x-rays, CT scans show a higher level of detail and take more accurate pictures of the brain and body.

Combining the images from the two scanners provides a complete picture of the tumor's location, size, and shape.

Doctors then use this information to:

  • Diagnose and stage the disease.
  • Plan your treatment.
  • Track the progress of your treatment.

What Are the Benefits of PET-CT Scans?


The level of detail of PET-CT images:

  • Helps oncologists reduce the amount of healthy tissue they treat with radiation.
  • Often identifies previously unsuspected cancer-bearing tissues.
  • Allows for more effective and tailored treatments.

PET-CT Scans For Cancer

Experts at UPMC use PET-CT scans to:

  • Determine whether a tumor is cancerous.
  • Identify lymph node cancers accurately.
  • Detecting metastatic tumors earlier.
  • Evaluate the response to therapy.
  • Assess the return of cancer.

Cancer Types We Diagnose with PET-CT

The introduction of PET-CT has made it easier to diagnose people with head and neck cancer and melanoma, two formerly hard-to-spot cancer types.

And, it provides greater diagnostic accuracy for many other cancers, including:

In 1998, UPMC became home to the first PET-CT scanner. We've since used this technology in more than 10,000 clinical cases.

Mobile PET-CT

Despite the benefits of PET-CT, the cost of the equipment limited its availability to larger hospitals.

To bring PET-CT closer to patients, UPMC offers a mobile PET-CT unit. This allows many smaller community cancer centers to share equipment and provide the benefits of PET-CT scans, without requiring extra travel from home.

Radiation oncologists evaluate the diagnostic images onsite or send them to radiologists at hospital-based locations for review.

PET-CT Imaging Locations

PET-CT imaging is available at hospital-based locations and at many UPMC Hillman Cancer Center radiation oncology network locations.

Contact Us About PET-CT Scans at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

To learn more about diagnostic radiation oncology at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, please call us at 412-647-2811.