PET/CT allows doctors to examine signs of disease, such as areas with increased activity that may signal the origins of cancer (often at an earlier stage than is possible with conventional X-rays or CT scans). The procedure is painless, noninvasive and safe, and can replace several other testing procedures with a single exam by acquiring images of every system in the body with one scan. PET/CT can show the beginnings of many common forms of cancer, as well as heart and neurological disease.

What to expect during your PET/CT exam

  • Check in: you’ll be asked to fill out a medical history sheet. Please bring insurance cards.
  • You won’t need to change clothes.
  • You’ll be given an IV injection of radioactive glucose or “tracer,” there are no side effects or allergic reactions. The goal is even distribution of the tracer throughout your body. Relaxation with minimal movement is best; sleeping is fine.
  • You’ll relax in a comfortable recliner and, if you’re not having a brain scan, TV and music are available.
  • Waiting time after the injection is 45 to 60 minutes. Family cannot be in the room with you because of the rules regarding radioactivity.
  • The PET/CT scanner is similar to a CT scan. The bed moves in segments through the “donut hole.” You’ll be asked to lie still.
  • Body scans for tumors take approximately 60 minutes. Brain scans take 30 minutes. Melanoma scans take 120 minutes.
  • A technologist will watch you from behind a window during the scan.
  • You’ll be able to drive after the scan unless you receive Valium.
  • You’re encouraged to drink fluids to flush the tracer out of your system after the scan. You should avoid exposure to small children or pregnant women for a few hours after the scan.

Family and Friends

  • People who are not patients are unable to wait in the injection rooms or scan room due to radioactive exposure.
  • Please make arrangements for child care. We cannot be responsible for children left unattended.
  • Food and drinks are available in the Garden Market on the 1st floor of the Medical Center.
  • Family/friends are welcome to remain in the waiting area or to come back when the patient’s PET/CT Scan is completed.