A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is an imaging test that uses a radioactive drug (tracer) to detect disease. In my case, the disease is cancer.
The tracer was injected and I spent an hour relaxing which allowed it to circulate via the blood system to tissues throughout my body. The tracer collects in areas that have higher levels of chemical activity. Cancer cells have a high metabolic rate and replicate at a higher rate than normal cells. This is clearly a higher level of chemical activity so they show up as bright spots in the images.
As you can see in the picture, I’m lying on a bed with my hands above my head. This bed passes through the scanner multiple time taking a series of pictures which are mapped to organs and tissues throughout my body. The time in the tunnel moving in and out is about 20 minutes.
As I mentioned above cancer cells show up as bright spots on PET scans because they have a higher metabolic rate than do normal cells. PET scans are useful in:
- Detecting cancer
- Revealing whether my cancer has spread
- During treatment checking whether it is working
- Finding a cancer recurrence.
Many types of solid tumors do appear on PET scans, including:
- Head and neck
I will get the results of today’s scan at the meeting with Dr. Wallace on Monday morning. The best outcome is that the cancer is limited to the bottom portion of my esophagus.
The radioactive tracer injected is minimal and passes quickly. There is no long-term effect. I’ll only glow a little tonight (just kidding).