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Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute

Read the Oncology Program Annual Report 2013
Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

What is PET?

Positron emission tomography, or PET, is a medical imaging technology that enables physicians to view how organ systems of the body are functioning at a cellular level. PET is unsurpassed as a definitive diagnostic tool because it can help the physician detect disease (such as cancer and Alzheimer's), determine appropriate treatment for that disease, and efficiently track the body's responses to the treatment.

Why Use PET?

Change in Treatment
The complete response to the stem cell transplantation is documented by PET. Without PET the patient likely would be subjected to additional courses of therapy.

Lymphoma case study


A 29-year-old male with a history of lymphoma, recurrent after chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation.

Initial PET Results

The initial PET study showed extensive involvement in the neck, chest, abdomen, and pelvis. The patient was scheduled for a repeat stem cell transplantation to treat extensive disease.

PET Findings

The follow-up whole-body FDG PET scan after the repeat stem cell transplantation shows complete resolution of the involvement in the neck, chest, abdomen, and pelvis, indicating a complete response to the stem cell transplantation.



  • Images and measures Metabolic Processes
  • Validates and/or alters patient management & care
  • Reduces patient risk/improves patient outcome
  • Decreases overall healthcare costs
  • Defines appropriate pathways
When Is PET Useful?


  • Whole-body survey for distant metastases
  • Differentiate indeterminate lesions
  • Provide early detection of recurrent tumors
  • Grade tumors
  • Aid in treatment selection and monitoring

PET has shown a high degree of accuracy in determining the presence or spread of many malignant tumors, including but not limited to:

  • Lung Cancer
  • Lymphomas
  • Melanoma
  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Head & Neck Tumors
  • Brain Tumors
  • Breast Cancer
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Pancreatic Cancer


  • Dementia: Differentiate dementia, Alzheimer's, Huntington's Chorea
  • Epilepsy: Detect foci, support surgery
  • Parkinson's: Diagnose movement disorders

How Does PET Work?

During a PET scan, the patient receives an intravenous injection of a glucose tracer. More glucose is used by cells with increased metabolism. Because cancer cells are highly metabolic and use more glucose than neighboring cells, they are easily seen on the PET scan.


The PET scanner records the signal these tracers emit as they travel throughout the body.


The computer reconstructs the patterns of detected radioactivity into 3-dimensional pictures of the body.




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