PET Scan

PET is a revolutionary scanning technique that is able to pinpoint areas in the body where cancers are forming before they can be detected by other imaging techniques. We believe PET imaging is the most important innovation since the introductions of MRI and CT imaging. Its contribution in support of the diagnoses and treatment of cancer and certain cardiac and neurological diseases is significant, and we are pleased to offer this service to our community.

Benefits of PET

Early detection is PET’s most important benefit in dealing with cancer. It is unsurpassed in detecting a tumor in the initial stages of growth, when treatment is most effective and the chance for cure more likely.

PET is the only imaging technique that shows whether or not a tumor is benign or malignant. PET has a very high accuracy rate in identifying cancerous lesions. In some cases, this can eliminate the need for biopsies or surgery.

PET shows the extent of disease – called staging – of lung cancer, colorectal cancer, melanoma, head and neck cancer, breast cancer, lymphoma, and many other cancers.  This helps physicians determine if a cancer has spread to other parts of the body so that appropriate treatment can be started. It only takes one PET examination to search the entire body for cancer.

PET shows if a particular treatment is working. This helps doctors adjust treatment dosages so they are most effective. PET is also used to monitor if the disease recurs.

Special Advantages

BCH has a high resolution scanner, taking only 30 to 40 minutes to do a whole body examination versus 60 to 90 minutes with other scanners.

Exams are performed by specially trained, certified nuclear medicine technologists. The scans are interpreted by board-certified radiologists who have extensive training in nuclear medicine and positron emission tomography.  In most cases your physician will have the results of your scan within one working day of the exam.

ET shows the internal chemistry and functioning of tissue 

How It Works

PET shows the internal chemistry and functioning of tissue in the body, highlighting cells that are abnormally active. Other types of imaging, such as MRI, CT, and X-ray, show anatomic or structural changes, e.g. the physical growth of a tumor. PET can detect subtle chemical and metabolic changes that take place before anatomic and structural changes have time to develop. The procedure begins with a technologist injecting radioactive glucose (sugar) into your bloodstream. Because cancerous cells grow at a fast rate compared with healthy tissue, they require more fuel and absorb more of the glucose. The PET scanner records the signals that the radioactive glucose emits as it travels throughout the body. A powerful computer reassembles the signals into color-coded images that show the sites where cancer is present.

Other Uses

  • PET scans can be a useful addition to mammography, showing if breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. If the patient has no lymph node involvement, she may be able to avoid the standard lymph node removal which often has painful aftereffects.
  • PET also has many uses in cardiology and the neurosciences.
  • PET can be used to evaluate the amount of damage caused by a heart attack and evaluate the effectiveness of treatment.
  • PET is being used to provide valuable information in many neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementias, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy. Researchers believe that PET may be able to identify cases of Alzheimer’s disease before significant symptoms emerge.
  • This technology also can be used in psychiatry because it is sensitive to biological brain alterations that occur during episodes of schizophrenia, depression and other disorders.

Service Location

PET Scan is provided at Foothills Hospital.

Appointment Scheduling

If your physician orders a PET Scan, call the BCH's Nuclear Medicine Department directly at 303-440-2176 between 8 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. weekdays to schedule an appointment.


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