Disease is a biological process, beginning long before we are aware of it. Mobile Positron Emission Tomography (PET) allows doctors to view the organ systems of our body and how they are functioning. Physicians can see how the body's cells are functioning and the exact location of a disease. PET is an imaging procedure that tells information not available through CT, MRI, X-ray, blood tests or physical examination. PET is an invaluable clinical test for cancer, heart disease and neurological disorders and is used more and more to diagnose patients with these serious afflictions.
Cancer begins as a primary disease affecting a single organ, but can become fatal after it spreads to other organs. PET can accurately image many organs at one time to diagnose cancer, and provide information about whether or not cancer has spread to other parts of the body. PET can assess the effectiveness of chemotherapy, assess if the tumors are malignant and determine the stage of cancer.
Physicians use PET to screen patients for heart disease, assess damage from a heart attack and see if a patient is a good candidate for a bypass operation.
In neurology, PET is able to detect early signs of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases, epilepsy and other disorders, even before some symptoms occur, making a critical difference in their treatment and management. PET detects the onset of Alzheimer's disease two to three years before any other diagnosis can be made, and in the case of hereditary Alzheimer's, PET can detect the disease before symptoms occur.
PET is a safe and painless procedure, which typically takes about one or two hours to complete. Patients are injected with a small amount of non-dangerous radioactive sugar, and then rest for about an hour to wait for the body to process the sugar. In the mobile PET scanning room, the patient lies on a table that slowly passes through the scanner.
The FDA has approved PET for the diagnosis of some diseases, but physicians and insurance companies must still determine case by case when PET is appropriate.