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PET Overview

How does PET work?

First, a patient is given radioactive glucose through an IV. All cells need glucose for energy; however, cancer cells use glucose faster than normal cells. a PET scan measures metabolic activity by detecting the radiation emitted when cancerous cells absorb this glucose. Three-dimensional images can then be generated by the computer showing the detected activity throughout the body.

What are the benefits of a PET/CT?
  • More accurate with better image quality
  • More convenient to have both scans performed simultaneously
  • Less error due to patient positioning changes

Who interprets the scan results?

A radiologist or physician who is specifically trained in nuclear medicine will evaluate the images. In order to ensure accuracy, Carle Cancer Institute Normal uses an additional step of having another radiologist read the scan. Two eyes are better than one.

How does Carle Cancer Institute Normal verify accuracy?

The PET/CT program at Carle Cancer Institute Normal is accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR). As an accredited facility, various quality assurance measures must be performed to ensure proper functioning of the PET/CT scanner. Additionally, random scans are also reviewed by an additional radiologist sent for peer review by outside facilities. All of these quality checks must be documented to meet ACR requirements and maintain accreditation.

Why do I need a PET/CT scan?

PET/CT is a powerful imaging technique that holds great promise in the diagnosis and treatment of many diseases, particularly cancer. A non-invasive test, PET/CT accurately images metabolic and anatomic information in the human body in a single scan. This allows your physician to examine your entire body at once. PET/CT provides a more complete picture, making it easier for your doctor to diagnose problems, determine the extent of disease, prescribe treatment, and track progress.

How much time should I allow?

You can expect to be at the center for two to three hours. The actual scan itself takes far less time.

What does my procedure involve?

A PET/CT scan is painless, with no side effects. After fasting for at least four hours, you will receive an intravenous (IV) injection of a radioactive glucose. Following the injection, you will rest quietly for approximately 90 minutes, while the glucose is distributed throughout the body.

After the distribution time is complete, you will then be asked to lie on a table that slowly passes through the scanner. After the organ being studied processes the radioactive tracer and the scanner records the information, a trained radiologist interprets the images. Results are reported to your referring physician usually within 48 hours.

Medicare covers PET/CT scanning for many uses, including breast, lung, colorectal, esophageal, melanoma, lymphoma, thyroid and head and neck cancers. Most private insurers cover PET/CT scans as well. Check with your physician about your insurance coverage.


How do I prepare for my PET/CT scan?

  1. Do not exercise or drink caffeine (i.e. soda, energy drinks, coffee, etc.) the day of your appointment.
  2. Do not eat six hours prior to your appointment. This includes gum, candy, mints, and cough drops. You may continue to drink WATER ONLY during this time. If your exam is in the afternoon, six hours or more before your appointment time you can have a high protein breakfast (eggs and meat), but NO cereal or any other carbohydrate or caffeine product.
  3. Do not take Diabetic medications six hours prior to your appointment. You may take any other medications as long as they are tolerated on an empty stomach.
  4. Wear loose, warm, and comfortable clothing that does not have metal. Metal will have to be removed prior to scan (sports bras are best for women).
  5. Plan to be here for approximately two hours.
  6. Please bring your photo ID and insurance cards to the appointment.
  7. Please allow 24 hour notice if you should need to cancel or reschedule your appointment.

If you have any questions concerning the instructions listed here, please call (309) 451-2278 between 8 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Please Contact Us if you have any questions.