Supporting women whose lives have been touched by breast cancer

PET-CT scan

By mbl

I have had liver mets since 2009, and bone mets since 2006. Because the standard CT scans didn't show up the many small liver tumours clearly ("pseudocirrhosis" -nothing to do with excess alcohol!) after I'd had chemo, my oncs now schedule PET-CT scans. A PET-CT scan shows whether tumours are active or not. The patient is given a small injection of a radioactive compound derived from glucose. Cancer cells metabolize this more rapidly than normal cells.

There are several differences between the two types of scan - I prefer the PET-CT scans myself, but I guess they are more expensive.

For my PET-CT I am required to fast for 6 hours before the scan, but for only 2 hours for a CT scan.

The PET-CT scan includes 1 hour lying down after the injection of radioactive tracer, so the total time at the hospital is usually longer than for a CT scan. It's a relaxing time when I can lie still and listen to my MP3 player.

The CT procedure requires a contrast dye, either by injection through a cannula that stays in place during the scan, or as a liquid to drink for patients who are allergic to the intravenous contrast dye. None of this is needed for a PET-CT scan.

For CT scans of liver, lungs etc. it is necessary to hold your breath at several points during the scan. This is not necessary for PET-CT.

After a PET-CT scan is finished, a patient can leave the hospital immediately, but should avoid close contact with young children for the remainder of the day. After a conventional CT scan, a patient is advised to remain in the hospital for an hour after the contrast injection, because of the risk of a delayed reaction to the contrast dye.

In the past, the CT scanning waiting area in my hospital has been very busy. The PET-CT department is relatively new, and has a quiet and orderly atmosphere. Somebody had the brilliant idea of providing supermarket-style long-handled baskets for patients' clothes and belongings.