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What is the procedure for a PET scan?

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Quick Answer

During a PET scan, a radioactive tracer is administered to the patient and allowed to circulate through the body for at least an hour, according to Radiology.org. Once the tissues have absorbed the tracer, the patient is moved to the PET scanner for the imaging test.

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Full Answer

Depending on the area of the body being studied, the radioactive tracer may be given as an injection, an inhalation, or a drink, explains Cancer.net. Once it is administered, the patient rests quietly without talking while the tracer makes its way through the body. Movement can change the way the tracer is distributed in the tissues, which necessitates minimal activity from the patient.

For the PET scan itself, the patient moves to the procedure room and lies on a table that slides in and out of the PET scanner, notes Cancer.net. The scan takes anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, and the patient must lie still and follow the technologist's instructions regarding breathing and movement. The scanning machine isn't particularly noisy, but patients may hear some clicking or whirring sounds. Once the scan is complete, the patient may continue on with his day. Drinking lots of fluid will help to flush the tracer from the body.

A PET scan is used to detect cancers, monitor cancer treatment or recurrence and determine causes of brain, nervous system and cardiac problems, according to Healthline. It show abnormalities at the cellular layer of the body.

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