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PET-CT Scans at the Department of Radiation Oncology

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 stands for positron emission tomography.
  • CT stands for computed tomography.
Imaging Technique  Diagnostic Procedure
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?

PET-CT scan machineThe 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.

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.