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Positron Emission Tomography Scan

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 5, 2024.

What do I need to know about a positron emission tomography (PET) scan?

A PET scan is used to take pictures of tissues and organs in your body. A small amount of radiation is put into your body before the PET scan. The radiation is called a tracer. The tracer collects in an area and gives off energy. A computer analyzes the energy and creates pictures of the area being examined.

Why may I need a PET scan?

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, damage, or injury to your brain, lungs, heart, or abdomen. You may need a PET scan during treatment for a disease to check how you are responding to treatment. A scan may also be done after you finish treatment so healthcare providers can check how well treatment worked.

How do I prepare for a PET scan?

What can I eat and drink the night before the PET scan?

What can I eat or drink on the day of the PET scan?

Your healthcare provider will give you specific instructions for eating and drinking before your scan. He or she may tell you not to have anything except water for 4 to 6 hours before your scan.

What will happen during a PET scan?

What are the risks of a PET scan?

A PET scan uses a small amount of radiation. The radiation from the scan may increase your risk for cancer. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, a PET scan may harm your baby. Small growths in your body may not be found with a PET scan. If the results are unclear, you may need another PET scan.

Care Agreement

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. 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.

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Further information

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