Decoding PET CT

The PET CT Scan is one of the sought after diagnostic tests. Lets find out more on what is a PET CT and why is it preferred over other diagnostic tests, such as an MRI, CT Scan or an ultrasound.

What is a PET Scan ?

A PET Scan is a nuclear medicine technique which produces images of the human body at a molecular level.

A PET CT, uses radioactive tracers in conjugation with isotopes such as oxygen, nitrogen, carbon etc. These radio isotopes act at a molecular level and work as probes which seek out disease, cancer in the body while giving out radio signals which are captures to produce an image.

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PET CT Scan
PET CT

This can help in diagnosis of even the tiniest lesions, thus increasing the accuracy of investigation, subsequent diagnosis and hence cancer treatment.

A PET CT Scan, therefore reveals a lot more about the body than standard diagnostic tests such as MRI, CT Scan or an ultrasound.

What happens during a PET Scan ?

A PET CT Scan, is always on a price appointment basis as the radio isotopes, having a a very short half life need to be brought in just before the scan.

A PET CT, is usually carried out empty stomach on overnight or ateast 6 hrs fasting.

The creatinine levels, need to checked prior to conducting the PET CT by a simple blood tests called KFT or Kidney function test

If the creatinine levels are in order, the patient is  tested for blood sugar and if found in order , the patient is given an injection of glucose with a radioactive tracer.

After the injection, the patient is made to rest for about 90 mins and then taken for the actual scan which takes about 30 mins to 45 mins depending upon the imaging required.

During the scan, the patient is made to lie on a comfortable table that moves slowly through the ring like PET scanner.

After the scan, the patient can leave immediately. However close contact with others especially children and pregnant women is best avoided for the next 4-6 hrs.

It is also good to drink a lot of water, to flush out the radio active tracer from the body.

The imaging can be seen by the doctors and the nuclear medicine specialists almost immediately for evaluation, though a formal written report takes a day to be handed over to the patient.

Are there any side effects or discomfort due to the scan ?

There are no sid effects or discomfort due to the PET  CT Scan, except the minor prick while injecting the tracer.

The PET CT scanner, also does not make any sounds while the scan is going on unlike a few other diagnostics tests.

What are the diseases for which a PET CT Scan can be used ?

The most common use case for a PET CT Scan is for detecting and treating cancer. However other applications, include diagnosing cardiac or heart problems and also neurology.

Cancer/Oncology :

During the initial stages of the disease, a PET CT helps distinguish between benign and malignant disease and also cancer staging, that is knowing  and determining the stage of the disease and also its characteristics, which further helps oncologists decide the best treatment option for the patient.

During course of treatment, it helps determine response to therapy or cancer treatment and if the metabolic activity decreases on the PET CT Scan, the oncologists know that the drugs being administered are working.

On the other hand, if the metabolic activity on the scan increases, it indicates that the treatment option is losing its efficacy or is not working and helps oncologists change the line of treatment to benefit the patient.

Cardiac Care: Post a heart attack, a PET CT Scan can be used to determine myopathy , need for CABG or open heart surgery and if there would be any benefit from CABG or would a heart transplant or an LVAD be a better treatment option.

Neurology: Alzeheimer’s at an early stage can be diagnosed using a PET Scan leading to early intervention.

A PET CT Scan helps locate tumours, distinguish between benign and malignant tumours and also scar tissue for brain surgery.

A PET CT  is also useful for treatment of epileptic seizures. It can help locate the origin and focus of seizures and assess sites for intervention if any is required.

What is the difference between a PET CT and an MRI or a CT ?

A CT or an MRI works on the physical level and can give the size and location of the tumour with accuracy.

However since both tests donot work on the molecular level, they cannot indicate metabolic activity of the tumour which only a PET CT Scan can indicate, thereby making a PET CT, a diagnostic test of choice for oncologists, cardiologists, cardiac or heart surgeons and interventional neurologists.

To know more on PET CT Scans, cost and implications, from the best cancer hospitals in India, write to us on info@ihealthkonnect.com or send us a query.

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Stomach Cancer- Why does it catch us unawares ?

Stomach cancer is defined as the growth of cancerous cells in the stomach lining.
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), there will be approximately 24,590 new cases of stomach cancer every year.

Stomach cancer
Clinical stages of stomach cancer. How stomach cancer spreads?

Stomach cancer is often left undiagnosed because it doesn’t have many early symptoms – it is diagnosed when cancer spreads to other parts of the human body.

A few early signs are:
Nausea and Vomiting: Nausea is defined as a feeling of queasiness at the back of your throat or stomach. Vomiting, on the other hand, is defined as the contraction of your stomach muscles that push the digested food back through your oesophagus. Both nausea and vomiting may be early symptoms of stomach cancer especially if one’s blood shows in the vomit.
Bloating: If one faces bloating, which doesn’t ease up and persistent, it calls for a visit to the doctor and an ultrasound at least to start with.

H. Pylori Infection: If one suffers from frequent indigestion, bloating,one must get tested for bacterial Infection with H pylori, as it is the most prominent indication of people developing stomach cancer later.

Research has shown that people suffering from H.Pylori infections have a much incidence of stomach cancers.

Weight loss: Stomach tumours cause blockages, preventing food from passing into the stomach or into the intestines causing loss of appetite. Similarly, stomach cancer causes energy from food to be burned at a faster rate which combined with nutritional loss causes weight loss.

Stomach Pain: Unexplained stomach pain , the kind which persists is also a warning sign that something may be wrong.

Frequent HeartBurns:  Frequent heartburns could be because of ulcers and may also indicate that everything is not ok.

Inability to eat: As the tumour progresses, it blocks various parts of the digestive system. Coupled with body’s inability to digest food,  there is a reduced appetite, which at a later stage is often total inability to eat and digest food.

As the symptoms are so generic, they are often missed leading to diagnosis at a much later stage when the cancer has spread or metastatised to other parts of the body.

Is there a co-relation between our habits and stomach cancer?
Food: Food and stomach cancer have a direct relationship. The right dietary intake can lower the risk of stomach cancer. Storage of food through refrigeration instead of by smoking, salting and pickling also reduces the risk because the nitrates and nitrites in smoked food increase the risk of stomach cancer.
Smoking: The use of tobacco increases the risk of stomach cancer. It is said that the rate of risk of stomach cancer is doubled in smokers as compared to non-smokers. This is because smoking reduces the production of natural substances that protect the stomach and duodenum from tissue damage. Additionally, smoking promotes the duodenum reflux and increases the acidity of the duodenum making it vulnerable to H. Pylori bacteria. Smoking also constricts the blood vessels in the stomach reducing the blood flow in the stomach. All these mechanisms strengthen the link between stomach cancer and smoking.

Treatment of stomach cancer involves, surgery if detected at an early stage, followed by chemotherapy as the 1st line of treatment.

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