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Positron Emission Tomography Scan


  • A positron emission tomography scan is also called a PET scan. You may have a PET scan to take pictures of many body areas including the head, brain, neck, chest and abdomen. Before a PET scan, a small amount of radiation, called tracer, is put into your body. The tracer shows how chemicals, such as glucose, are working in your tissues. A PET scan may be done alone, or together with a computed tomography (CT) scan.
  • If you have cancer, the scan may show the cancer stage, or if and where it has spread. The results of the scan can help you and your caregiver plan your treatment. The test may show an abnormal growth in your body, such as a tumor. If you have chest pain or trouble breathing, the scan may show what is causing your symptoms. A PET scan, with or without a CT scan can show swelling, infection, or disease in your chest, lungs or abdomen. The scan may show heart damage caused by a heart attack or heart disease. You may need a PET scan, with or without a CT scan, if you have tremors (shaking), or memory problems. A problem or disease, such as Parkinson or Alzheimer disease, may be found with this test. If you have seizures that medicine cannot control, your caregiver may order a PET scan of your head to see if surgery on your brain could stop them.


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 faint (pass out), or you have a seizure (convulsion).
  • You have trouble breathing, or you are coughing up blood.
  • You have chest pain or discomfort that spreads to your arms, jaw, or back, or new and sudden back pain.
  • You feel sick to your stomach, or you are sweating for no reason.
  • Your lips or nailbeds turn blue or white in color.
  • You have headaches or dizziness.
  • Your arm, leg, or face feels numb or weak. This may happen on only one side of your body.
  • You are confused, or are having trouble speaking or understanding others.
  • You suddenly cannot see out of one or both of your eyes.

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.

Learn more about Positron Emission Tomography Scan (Aftercare Instructions)

Micromedex® Care Notes