PET Scans Use Gamma Rays to Make Lifesaving Diagnosis

PET scanning or position emission tomography, has proven very useful in providing diagnoses of serious conditions such as cancer. This gamma ray scan technology is useful in determining the tumor’s spread by mapping brain and heart function, as well as analyzing blood flow in the affected region. 

This technology is also useful in another way. It can be used to evaluate ischemia and myocardial infarction in patients who have had heart surgery, as well as diseases of the central nervous system, such as some seizure disorders.

pet scans gamma rays lifesaving diagnoses
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What separates a PET Scan from an MRI?

Whereas a PET scan can determine the extent to which a malignancy has spread, an MRI scan provides a 3D view of the internal organs. A PET scan shows not only an image of the organs, but also their functionality, which helps physicians to determine the staging of a malignancy. This helps tremendously when it comes to deciding on the course of treatment.

Once a treatment is completed, another PET scan is often performed. This is to gauge the level of success or failure of the treatment in managing the tumor. A PET scan detect whether there is any cancer left behind after the treatment and/or whether a previously eradicated tumor has returned. This is an advantage of a CT scan, on which scar tissue from the surgery can show up as an abnormality.

How Does it Work?

Basically, a radioactive substance is put into the body of the patient. This “tracer” emits gamma rays on the affected areas of the body and provides details about the metabolic and chemical activity in the body. This helps to determine the staging information of the cancer and tumor location. PET scans provide the medical team with a wealth of information about the malignancy, such as:

  • Precise location of the tumor
  • The size of the tumor
  • Whether the tumor is benign or malignant
  • Whether the tumor has spread to other parts of the body and, if so, to what extent it has spread
  • Helping to determine the best course of treatment for each patient/tumor
  • Monitor the success of treatments and decide on alternate subsequent treatments where necessary

PET scans are very useful in the medical field and they have been used for several years now in the diagnosis and treatment of many kinds of serious and potentially fatal diseases. 

The downside is that this type of diagnostic test is very expensive, putting it out of reach of patients – and even hospitals – in some countries. Because of that, there has been a rise in “medical tourism” wherein patients from undeveloped countries travel to developed countries offering such tests for much lower prices than they would have to pay in countries such as the United States.

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