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Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is a medical imaging technology that allows physicians to visualize the body's abnormal cellular activity. PET scans produce digital pictures that can, in many cases, aid the physician in identifying several forms of cancer, damaged heart tissue and brain disorders.
A PET scan is very different from ultrasound, X-ray, MRI, or CT scans, which detect changes in the body structure or anatomy, such as a sizeable tumor or musculoskeletal injury. A PET scan can help physicians distinguish between living and dead tissue or between benign and malignant disorders, whereas other imaging technologies merely confirm the presence of a mass.
Since a PET scan images the biology of disorders at the molecular level, it can help the physician detect abnormalities in cellular activity at a very early stage, generally before anatomic changes are visible. A PET scan can, in many cases, help identify disease earlier and more specifically than ultrasound, X-ray, MRI or CT scans.