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PET/CT scan

Patient ready for a PET/CT scan; general anesthesia
is used so that the pet will hold still for the study.

Here at the CSU ACC, we are fortunate to have the best available methods for imaging our cancer patients, and this contributes greatly to our patient care! The use of PET/CT is quite new to veterinary medicine. You may also have heard of this type of imaging referred to as a PET scan or PET-CT. They all refer to this type of imaging. In human oncology its use has skyrocketed over the last decade because of its high sensitivity to detecting cancer based on its high metabolism, which is a functional tissue change rather than waiting for a cancer to change anatomy of the affected area. PET stands for positron emission tomography, an advanced nuclear medicine imaging technique, which is combined with computed tomography (CT).

Patient Examples

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3D PET image of a dog, in which the uptake
of the glucose tracer FDG in normal organs is
bright orange (including the brain, salivary
glands, heart, intestines and urinary bladder).

This procedure involves the injection of a small amount of a radioactive tracer which is detected by the PET scanner after the radioactive tracer has circulated and distributed in the body. A CT scan of the whole body is done at the same time, to accurately show us where the tracer has localized. The most common radioactive tracer used for cancer diagnosis is a form of glucose, called FDG (fluorodeoxyglucose), so those scans are called FDG-PET/CT. Many cancer cells take up glucose intensely because that sugar provides energy to support their high metabolic needs.

The detection of the FDG allows us to find areas of cancer in the body with great sensitivity. We are also able to perform highly detailed bone scans with PET/CT, which can be useful for finding areas of cancer that affect the skeleton. PET/CT scans are performed on inpatients that have been admitted through our Oncology service.

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Click on image to enlarge.

A PET/CT scan provides a vast amount of information to evaluate the patient. Images are displayed as radiopharmaceutical uptake (left column and upper row), the anatomic CT scan (middle row), and also as color coded PET information overlaid on the CT for localization (bottom row). This patient had bone cancer, osteosarcoma, of the forelimb.