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What is a PET scan for cancer?

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Quick Answer

A positron emission tomography, or PET scan, is an imaging study used to detect cancerous tumors. A radioactive substance is injected into the arm, which shows up in tissue and organs during a PET scan. It shows if cancer is spreading and how it changes cell structures, according to Healthline.

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What is a PET scan for cancer?
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Full Answer

During a PET scan, the injected tracer accumulates in tissues that have increased metabolic activity, according to Mayo Clinic. This increased metabolic activity can point to diseased areas, including cancer. On radiographic imaging, these active areas appear as bright areas, making it easy to compare new studies with previous ones and determine if there has been growth of the cancer or if cancer treatment is reducing tumor size.

PET scans are also used to diagnose diseases such as Alzheimer's, seizures and heart conditions, including clogged arteries, according to Mayo Clinic.

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