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  • What Is a PET scan?

  • Positron emission tomography, or PET, is a non-invasive, nuclear medicine procedure that is able to detect certain diseases before other imaging procedures, such as CT scan and magnetic MRI. PET is able to detect chemical and physiological changes related to metabolism. Using CT and MRI scans, physicians are only able to view anatomy and tissue structure. PET is able to detect illnesses much earlier, since metabolic changes occur before changes in organs and tissues. 


    PET scan of lung cancer
    (10.1 mCi 3min em, 45 sec tr)
    Images courtesy of University of Sherbrooke 

    Although PET technology has been used in research since the early 1970s, the use of PET for diagnosing illness only became common in the late 1990s, when it was discovered that it had many applications for the detection and the treatment of cancer.

    PET is mainly used to:

    • evaluate lung tumors,
    • stage and restage various tumors,
    • determine tumor response to radiation and/or chemotherapy,
    • diagnose recurrence of tumor growth after surgical removal,
    • decide the best location for biopsying a suspected tumor,
    • differentiate radiation necrosis from new tumor growth.

    Last year more than 200,000 PET scans were performed at more than 700 sites in the United States. 

    For more information about PET at Rhode Island Hospital or to schedule an physician-referred appointment, please call 401-444-7383.