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PET/CT Imaging

PET/CT is a powerful diagnostic test that is having a major impact on the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Because disease is a biological process, and PET/CT is a biological imaging examination, PET/CT can detect and stage most cancers, often before they are evident through other tests.

A PET/CT scan examines your body's chemistry. Most common medical tests, like CT and MR scans, only show details about the structure of your body. PET/CT is different. It also provides information about function. With a single PET/CT procedure, physicians can collect images of function throughout the entire body, uncovering abnormalities that might otherwise go undetected.

While CT scanners provide good detail of the body’s internal organs, they are not capable of showing if a cancer cell is active. Combining CT with PET gives the physician the ability to identify the presence or extent of the disease using PET, as well as the correlative CT to pinpoint exactly where to perform a follow-up biopsy, therapy, or surgery.

For example, a PET/CT scan is the most accurate, non-invasive way to tell whether or not a tumor is benign or malignant, sparing the patient expensive, often painful diagnostic surgeries and suggesting treatment options earlier in the course of the disease. And although cancer spreads silently in the body, PET/CT can inspect all organs of the body for cancer in a single examination!

How does a PET/CT work?

When disease strikes, the biochemistry of your tissues and cells changes. In cancer, for example, cells begin to grow at a much faster rate, feeding on sugars like glucose. PET/CT works by using a small amount of a tracer drug chemically attached to glucose or other compounds. You are injected with the tracer. It travels through your body emitting signals and eventually collects in the organs targeted for examination. If an area in an organ is cancerous, the signals will be stronger than in the surrounding tissue. A scanner records these signals and transforms them into pictures of chemistry and function.

A PET/CT scan usually takes approximately 1½ hours or less to complete. Patients must receive the radioactive glucose injection one hour before the scan can begin. Medicare, Medicaid, and many private payers now cover the cost for a scan. These include lung, breast, colorectal, lymphoma, melanoma, head and neck, cervical, esophageal, and thyroid cancers. Patients must bring a list of all medications.

What can PET/CT see that other procedures can’t see?

PET/CT is able to detect extremely small cancerous tumors and very subtle changes of function in the brain and heart. This allows physicians to treat these diseases earlier and more accurately. A PET/CT scan puts time on your side! The earlier the diagnosis, the better chance for treatment.

In cancer, PET/CT can:

  • distinguish benign from malignant tumors
  • stage cancer by showing metastases anywhere in your body
  • prove whether or not treatment therapies are working

Radiology Report Turnaround process

A radiologist, who is a physician experienced in nuclear medicine and other radiology procedures, will analyze the images and send a report to the patient’s referring
physician. The referring physician will inform the patient of the procedure findings.

We have a departmental goal of 6 hours for Radiology Report Turnaround time. We measure the time from radiology request entry to the time the transcriptionist types the final report. The radiology report is also available via our Digital Dictation System, immediately after Radiologist completes dictation. The DVI system phone number is 377-3745. You must first enter your six (6) digit PIN number, your department number, and the patient’s medical record number to access the report.

What are the Benefits VS Risks?


  • PET/CT scanning offers a detailed view of many types of tissue where cancer may be located
  • Accuracy and speed help diagnose many causes of pain and discomfort, enabling faster treatment and often eliminating the need for additional, more invasive diagnostic procedures
  • PET/CT scanning is painless and noninvasive
  • The information provided is unique and is not available by using other imaging methods. In many cases the PET/CT yields the most useful information needed to make a diagnosis
  • May eliminate exploratory surgery


  • PET/CT does involve exposure to radiation, but the benefit of an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk
  • Exposure to small dose of radiation
  • Other imaging methods should be considered for pregnant patients

The ideal recommendation for post radiation treatment is 8 weeks and post chemo therapy is 12 weeks, but we will schedule as the referring physician requests.


North Mississippi Medical Center
Longtown Imaging
PET/CT Scan: Patient Instructions

Appointment Date: _______________________ Time: _____________ am/pm

I. Safety
1. Patients CAN NOT have a PET/CT scan if they are pregnant.
2. PET/CT should be scheduled prior to Radiation Therapy/Chemotherapy when possible.

II. Diet
1. No food or drink for 6 hours prior to your exam with the exception of water. Drink plenty of water up to your scheduled appointment time. You will be asked to empty your bladder just prior to your PET/CT exam.
2. Do NOT take any form of caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol 24 hours prior to your PET/CT.
3. We recommend a high protein, low carbohydrate meal prior to fasting the 6 hours before your PET/CT exam.
4. Suggested meal: Baked fish or chicken breast with green leafy vegetables or salad.

III. Medications
1. If you are a diabetic, you should take your diabetic medication and/or insulin at least 4 hours before your exam with a small amount of juice and dry toast or plain crackers. We will test your blood sugar level just prior to the exam. Your blood sugar must be below 200.
2. Unless instructed otherwise during your PAT visit, please take your regular medications if you can tolerate them on an empty stomach.
3. The PET/CT facility DOES NOT have pain or anxiety medications. If you require medication for pain or claustrophobia, arrangements should be made with your physician prior to your appointment day.
4. PET/CT scans may need pre-certification. Please check with each of your insurance carriers.

IV. Procedure Information
1. Please wear loose fitting clothes on the day of the exam. Please leave all metal hairpins and metal objects at home on the day of the exam. No metal objects are allowed in the exam room.
2. Arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled scan time. You should be prepared to spend 2 to 3 hours at the scanning facility.
3. After your blood sugar level is determined, you will be given an IV injection with a radiotracer. You will wait comfortably in a quiet room for about 60 minutes. This delay gives the radiotracer time to move into place.
4. When the exam begins, you will lie on a table that moves slowly through a ring-like CT scanner. You won’t feel anything during the scan, but you must lie very still. The scan will take about 30 minutes.
5. Do not exercise the day before your exam.

V. Post Procedure Information
1. After the test is finished, your physician will be sent a report with your results. Drink plenty of liquids and go about your normal activities. As an extra precaution, avoid getting close to any infants or anyone who is pregnant for 8 hours after your exam.

Please bring your orders with you for your procedure. We CAN NOT perform your test without an order from your Physician.

If you have any questions, concerns, or need to make changes to your appointment date or time, please call Cindy Grissom, RN at (662) 377-5115.