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PET/CT (Positron Emission Tomography) at Southcoast Health

A PET/CT scan is a painless imaging test. It uses a radioactive drug (called a tracer) to show how your organs and tissues are working and uses CT to show internal organs. This differs from other imaging exams that only show the structure of organs and tissues.

Why It Is Performed

Our doctors at Southcoast Health order PET/CT scans to diagnose or evaluate diseases, including brain disorders, cancer and heart conditions.

A PET scan can often detect disease earlier than other imaging tests because it shows chemical changes at the cellular level, providing information on:

  • The presence of disease
  • The location and extent of the disease
  • How rapidly the disease is spreading
  • Whether treatment is working

What to Expect from a PET/CT Scan in MA or RI

Your PET scan will take place at one of our hospitals or an imaging center that is convenient to you. After you change into a gown, you’ll take the tracer by getting an injection into a vein. It can take up to an hour for your body to absorb the tracer.

The PET/CT scanner looks like a tunnel or a large donut on its side. You will lie on a table that slides into the scanner, and need to be still during the test while the scanner picks up signals from the tracer to produce images. The scan itself is painless. The time it takes varies, but can last up to an hour.

What Your PET/CT Results Mean

The tracer collects in areas of your body with high chemical activity. This shows up as bright spots on the PET scan. These are areas that may indicate disease.

A radiologist specially trained in PET scan interpretation will examine the images and report the findings to your doctor. Normal results mean the tracer did not collect abnormally anywhere. Abnormal results may reveal the presence or spread of cancer.

Find a doctor nearby or contact Southcoast Radiology Imaging Services to discuss the benefits of PET/CT for your symptoms or condition.

Southcoast Health provides both CT scans and PET/CT scans in Fall River, North Dartmouth, New Bedford, MA, as well as parts of Rhode Island.