Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan

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Lutheran Hospital provides northeast Indiana residents with one of the most advanced and effective methods to diagnose many diseases – like cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's. Its called Positron Emission Tomography or PET. The advanced technology associated with PET scans can show things that no other procedures can show, significantly affecting a patient's treatment plan. In many cases, PET eliminates the need for other invasive diagnostic procedures.

PET scans are pictures of the actual biological functioning of the human body. Other imaging techniques, like CT and MRI, are limited to showing the structures of the body -- bones and outlines of the organs. PET scans on the other hand, show the actual metabolic functioning of the organs. Because PET scans are pictures of the body's chemistry, many diseases can be seen with PET, often at their earliest stages

Using cancer as an example, CT or MRI can pinpoint a lesion, but these procedures often cannot say whether it's benign or malignant. With PET scanning, doctors can determine with a high degree of accuracy if it is, or is not, cancer. Cancer spreads silently in the body and by the time symptoms appear, it is often too late for effective treatment. Using a glucose probe, PET can effectively scan for cancer.
PET is the also very helpful in the early detection of Alzheimer's disease. CT and MRI scanning are generally not helpful in diagnosing Alzheimer's disease, because they will only show atrophy, which is also apparent in normal aging. This may prevent patients from being able to start taking a new range of medications. PET is an excellent tool for early detection, because it can show changes in function that precede structural changes. This is making PET increasingly important for patients and families with a history of Alzheimer's.

Research has shown that PET can effectively pinpoint the source of many of the most common cancers and give physicians important early information about cardiac and neurological diseases, streamlining testing and decreasing the need for invasive biopsies.