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Positron Emission Tomography of the Chest


A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is used to take pictures of your chest. A small amount of radiation, called tracer, is put into your body before the PET scan. The tracer shows how chemicals, such as glucose (sugar), are working in your tissues. A PET scan of your chest will show the blood flow through your heart. A PET scan may show an abnormal growth, such as a tumor. It may be used to show if cancer has spread. A PET scan may show disease or damage to your chest, lungs, heart, or esophagus.


Before your test:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.
  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken before your PET scan. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.

During your test:

  • Tracer will be put in your IV. You will need to remain as still as possible for 1 hour as the tracer moves through your body. Healthcare providers may give you sedative medicine through your IV to help you feel calm and relaxed. You will lie on your back on a table attached to the PET scan machine. When the PET scan begins, the table will move through a large hole into the middle of the machine.
  • You will need to lie still while the scan is being done. Healthcare providers may ask you to change positions between pictures. A camera will take pictures of your chest. The pictures will appear on a monitor. When the PET scan is over, the table will move out of the machine.

After your test:

Do not get off the table until healthcare providers say it is okay. You may be able to go home after the test is complete. If you are staying in the hospital, you will be taken to your room. If you are breastfeeding, do not breastfeed your child right after the test. Ask your healthcare provider how long to wait to let the tracer leave your body.


Small growths in your body may not be found with a PET scan. If the results are unclear, you may need another PET scan. The radiation from the scan may increase your risk of cancer. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, a PET scan may harm your baby. Without a PET scan, problems in your chest, lungs, heart, or esophagus may not be found. You may not get the treatment you need.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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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.