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A Primer on PET Scanning

 

As a member of the community, when someone in your family has needed MRI or a CAT scan, most likely they received it at Valley. However, if you’ve needed a PET scan, you probably received it in New York City or another location some distance from home.

Now, Valley Hospital is pleased to announce it can offer this breakthrough technology at its new facility, the Daniel and Gloria Blumenthal Cancer Center at the Luckow Pavilion in Paramus.

What is a PET scan?

A remarkable tool in cancer care, cardiology, neurology and psychiatry, PET, or Positron Emission Tomography, is an imaging procedure that tells physicians about the body’s chemistry, its cell function and the exact location of disease — information not available through CT, MRI, X-ray, blood test or physical examination. A PET scan can offer patients greater peace of mind and better care through more accurate diagnosis and earlier detection.

PET can assess the effectiveness of chemotherapy, tell if some tumors are malignant, determine the stage of cancer, detect silent cancer, or see clearly if it has spread to other parts of the body -- in turn assessing the right treatment sooner and increasing your chance for survival. In cardiology, physicians use PET to screen heart disease, assess damage from a heart attack, and learn if you will benefit from a bypass operation. In neurology, PET is uniquely able to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, epilepsy and other disorders, even before some symptoms occur, making a critical difference in their treatment and management.

For more information on the technical specifications of Valley's PET Scanner, click here.

How does PET compare to other imaging choices, such as a CT scan?

Unlike CT and MRI, which produce images of anatomical structures, PET scans are pictures of actual biological functions within the body. This is critical because chemical and metabolic change occurs in diseased tissue long before structural change shows up in a CT, MRI or X-ray.

In oncology, the advantages can be dramatic. Clearly, the most dangerous aspect of cancer is how it spreads throughout the human body. PET inspects all organ systems to search for cancer in a single examination. In the words of the Institute for Clinical PET (ICP), a non-profit advocacy and patient education organization, "If cancer has spread, PET will expose it."

For individual patients, the usefulness and advisability of a PET scan will vary according to a given situation, including the stage and type of cancer, heart disease, neurological disorder or other condition. Your physician can best advise you on whether a PET scan is worthwhile in a specific instance.

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