Skip to Content

Positron Emission Tomography of the Chest


  • A positron emission tomography scan is also called a PET scan. You may have a PET scan to take pictures of body areas, such as your chest. Before a PET scan, a small amount of radiation, called tracer, is put into your body. The tracer shows caregivers how chemicals, such as glucose, are working in your tissues. A PET scan of your chest also may show blood flow through your heart. A PET scan may be done alone, or together with a computed tomography (CT) scan or a stress test. Ask your caregiver for more information about other tests that you may need with a PET scan.
  • If you have cancer, a PET scan with a CT scan may show if it has spread to your chest or lymph nodes. Your lymph nodes are glands (lumps of tissue) that help fight infection. You may need a PET scan, with or without a CT scan, if you have chest pain or trouble breathing. The scan may show what is causing your symptoms. The scan can show swelling, infection, or disease in your chest, lungs, or esophagus. It may also show if your heart is damaged from heart disease, or after a heart attack. The scan may find a tumor (growth) in your chest or lung. The results of the scan can help you and your caregiver plan your treatment.


Take your medicine as directed:

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

  • Ask your caregiver to explain the results of the PET scan to you.

Drinking liquids:

After your PET scan, your caregiver may want you to drink plenty of liquids. Good choices for most people to drink include water, juice, and milk. Ask your caregiver about how much liquid you should drink after your scan.


  • You have questions about your PET scan, condition or care.


  • You are coughing up blood.
  • Your symptoms, such as trouble breathing, get worse.
  • Call 911 or an ambulance if you have any signs of a heart attack:
    • Discomfort in the center of your chest that feels like squeezing, pressure, fullness, or pain, that lasts for more than a few minutes or keeps returning
    • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or one or both of your arms
    • Feeling sick to your stomach
    • Having trouble breathing
    • A sudden cold sweat, particularly in combination with chest discomfort or trouble breathing
    • Feeling very lightheaded or dizzy, particularly in combination with chest discomfort or trouble breathing

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.