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.
- 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:
- Gastrointestinal cancers
- Lung cancer
- Lymphoma and Hodgkin's disease
- Pancreatic cancer
- Ovarian and cervical cancers
- Musculoskeletal cancers
In 1998, UPMC became home to the first PET-CT scanner. We've since used this technology in more than 10,000 clinical cases.
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.