Positron emission tomography (PET) is a valuable imaging technique for the evaluation of brain tumors. It uses radioactive tracers to detect metabolic and physiological processes in the body. The benefits and applications of PET in brain tumor imaging vary depending on the stage of cancer.

Here is a summary of its applications for each stage:

Stage 1 Brain Tumor:

Application: PET is not typically used as a routine imaging modality for stage 1 brain tumors. MRI is the primary imaging technique used to assess the size, location, and characteristics of the tumor. However, PET may be considered in specific cases to evaluate the metabolic activity and aggressiveness of the tumor, which can help guide treatment decisions.

Stage 2 Brain Tumor:

Benefit: PET can aid in evaluating tumor extent, identifying areas of active tumor growth, and detecting potential metastases.

Application: PET is useful in assessing the extent of the tumor, including the presence of regional lymph node involvement or distant metastases in stage 2 brain tumors. It can provide information on the metabolic activity of the tumor, guide surgical planning, and aid in determining the most appropriate treatment approach, such as surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or targeted therapies.

Stage 3 Brain Tumor:

Benefit: PET can help assess the extent of tumor involvement, detect potential metastases, and guide treatment decisions.

Application: PET is valuable in stage 3 brain tumors to evaluate the extent of the tumor, including potential invasion into surrounding structures or distant metastases. It aids in determining the appropriate treatment strategy, including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapies, or a combination of these modalities.

Stage 4 Brain Tumor:

Benefit: PET can aid in identifying the spread of the tumor to distant sites, guiding treatment decisions, and assessing treatment response.

Application: PET is crucial in stage 4 brain tumors to detect potential metastases in distant organs, such as the lungs or bones. It helps in staging, determining the most appropriate treatment approach, and monitoring treatment response. PET can assist in distinguishing between tumor progression and treatment-related changes, guiding decisions regarding further treatment adjustments.

PET can provide functional information about the tumor’s metabolic activity and aggressiveness. This metabolic information can aid in differentiating between tumor tissue and normal brain tissue, identifying areas of active tumor growth, and detecting small metastatic lesions that may not be apparent on MRI alone.

In summary, the benefits and applications of PET in brain tumor imaging include assessing metabolic activity, determining tumor extent, identifying metastases, guiding treatment decisions, and monitoring treatment response.

How Long Will the Scan Take?

You should plan on spending at least two to three hours at the imaging facility. The results are interpreted by a trained nuclear medicine physician or radiologist and your physician will receive a written report approximately 24 to 48 hours after completion of the study.

Patient Safety

  • PET imaging is a nuclear imaging procedure. All molecular and nuclear imaging procedures are very safe and noninvasive.
  • The amount of radiopharmaceutical used is extremely small, so radiation exposure is minimal. The amount of radiation in most nuclear medicine procedures is comparable to that received during a CT scan.
  • Radiopharmaceuticals are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and prepared with great care.  For more information please refer to the form below.

After Your PET/CT Scan

Once the PET/CT scan is complete, you will be able to leave the imaging facility. Make sure you drink plenty of water or other fluids throughout the day.