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Why is it necessary to PET scan the whole body in cancer patients?

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Quick Answer

Cancer patients typically undergo a whole-body Positron Emission Tomography, or PET, scan to help physicians accurately determine the source of cancer, explains PETNET Solutions. It also enables doctors to identify whether the cancer affects a single area only or other organs as well.

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Full Answer

PET scan is a valuable diagnostic tool that allows health care practitioners to detect the presence, extent and severity of cancers, states PETNET Solutions. It helps doctors choose suitable treatments, evaluate the efficacy of present treatments and identify any recurrent tumors. The critical information PET scans provide include the cancer’s location, size of the tumor, organs affected by the cancer, and the existence of benign or malignant growths. Physicians can change ineffective cancer therapies and determine better treatment strategies based on PET scan results.

A cancer patient is typically given an intravenous injection of radiopharmaceuticals, such as radioactive glucose, before undergoing a PET scan, notes PETNET Solutions. Radiopharmaceuticals enable doctors to view images of how the body functions and measure the way cells use glucose for energy.

PET scans often cause safe radiation levels, says PETNET Solutions. Radiopharmaceuticals usually decay after several hours, leaving no trace of radioactivity. An individual also eliminates any remaining radiopharmaceutical through urine. Physicians advise drinking lots of fluids after a PET scan to flush radioactive glucose from the body.

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