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Do I need a PET Scan to manage my cancer?

<p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><img src="/nairobi/PublishingImages/Pet%20scan%20body.jpg" alt="" style="margin: 5px;"/></span> </p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><strong><em>Pictorial Caption:</em></strong><strong><em> Daniel Oguna PET Scan technologist at Aga Khan University Hospital Nairobi prepares a patient for a procedure</em></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Being diagnosed with cancer irrespective of the stage is one of the most dreaded experience for everyone. At this point, most patients have a myriad of questions even as they go through the treatment process and their greatest wish is to be cancer-free.
</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Early detection, getting the right care, seeing the right specialist and the support of the right diagnosis equipment is very critical in the cancer treatment journey. One critical diagnostic technology is the PET CT, a technology not widely understood by patients. Here is what you need to know about PET CT Scan.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What is a PET CT Scan and why do I need it?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">PET CT stands for Positron Emission Tomography and Computed Tomography. This is an imaging machine that has two components, a PET scan and a CT scan. This technology combines assessment of function of cells using a radioactive drug (tracer) through PET Scan and structural imaging using the CT scan.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Your doctor may need you to undergo a PET scan because it&#39;s an effective way to help identify a variety of conditions, including cancer, heart disease, brain disorders and also infections. PET Scan is more accurate in evaluation of most cancers compared to other imaging modalities such as CT scan and MRI. Your doctor will use this information to help diagnose, monitor or treat your condition.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Can I do a CT scan instead of a PET scan?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">PET CT is mainly for cancer imaging while a CT Scan has broader use including assessment of infections and injuries to the body.  However, PET CT is specific for evaluation of particular types of cancers and not all cancers – some will still be evaluated using CT Scan. Your oncologist will advise on the suitable test to undergo.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What is the role of PET CT Scan?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">PET CT is a diagnostic imaging tool that helps clinicians arrive at diagnosis in combination with other investigations such as clinical and laboratory tests. It is also critical in identifying the stage of the cancer, assessing whether the cancer has spread in the body, assessing if the treatment a patient is on is effective and determining cancer recurrence.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Can I have a PET CT without a doctor&#39;s request?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">No. A PET CT is a highly specialized imaging test which has very specific indications. For this reason, a patient requires a doctor&#39;s request to undergo one.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What determines who can undergo the scan?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">PET CT involves use of radiation and therefore not suitable for pregnant mothers unless under very special considerations. In children, we should minimize the use of PET CT due to the radiation involved, instead other modalities with no or lower radiation like MRI, ultrasound, and CT scan can be used.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">PET CT is required in cancer staging and follow-up of most but not all cancers since not all cancers can be identified on PET scan. The timing of PET CT examination in relation to stage of treatment also varies and for this reason it is advisable that the booking of PET CT is done in consultation with the oncologist and PET CT specialist.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The Aga Khan University Hospital PET CT scanner is useful for a majority of cancers including cancers of the breast, lung, head and neck, prostate and most cancers of the abdomen.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Before the procedure what am I expected to do?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The main patient preparation is fasting for 6 hours to ensure accuracy of the scan. The patient is also advised to reduce physical exercise and carbohydrates intake 24 hours prior to the scan and stay well hydrated through intake of plain water.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">No particular patient preparation is required for prostate cancer PET scan apart from staying well hydrated.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What will the procedure involve?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The patient will have their blood sugar level checked and if within normal, a small volume of the radioactive drug is administered. The patient will then rest in a quiet room for approximately 1 hour after which they will be moved to the PET scanner. The scan takes approximately 1 hour after which the patient is allowed home but advised to stay well hydrated.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Are there any side effects of the procedure?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">PET CT is generally a safe procedure apart from small dose of radiation which is within acceptable medical use. The radiotracer administered is an inert material and therefore has no side effects on the body.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">How long will the radiation stay in the body – do I need to isolate?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The radioactive drug administered during PET CT examination has a very short half-life and will clear from the body within 24 hours and by the first 6 hours most of it will have been excreted through urine. For this reason, you do not need to isolate but advised to take a lot of water to help in clearance of the radiation from the body through urine.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">How long will I wait for the results?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The PET CT examination will be reviewed and reported by doctors trained in analyzing and interpreting PET examinations. At the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi a PET CT Scan report will be ready in 24-48 hours.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">After how long should I redo a PET Scan?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">This depends on the type of cancer, stage and mode of treatment. There are many considerations for repeat PET CT imaging and your doctor will advise on the need and timing of follow up PET CT examination.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><strong><em>By Dr Samuel Nguku, Radiologist and Nuclear Medicine Specialist at Aga Khan University Hospital Nairobi</em></strong>
</span></p><p><em style="font-family: helvetica;">This article was first published on </em><a href=""><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><strong><em>Business Daily Africa</em></strong><em> </em></span></a><em>i</em><em style="font-family: helvetica;"><em>n</em> October 29, 2021</em><br style="font-family: helvetica;"/></p>

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