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designated cancer center

Role of PET/CT

Benefit of PET in Oncology

Clinical research data has proven that PET scanning is superior to conventional imaging in the diagnosis and management of various types of cancers. Moreover, the appropriate use of PET can lead to a significant change in the management a patient's care.

Value of PET:  Major tumor types that PET can be useful

Depending on your clinical situation, PET scanning has been proven to be critical in the following tumor types:

How PET Works

Cancer cells require a great deal of sugar, or glucose, to have enough energy to grow. PET scanning utilizes a radioactive molecule that is similar to glucose, called fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG). FDG accumulates within malignant cells because of their high rate of glucose metabolism. Once injected with this agent, the patient is imaged on the whole body PET scanner to reveal cancer growths which may have been overlooked or difficult to characterize by conventional CT, X-Ray, or MRI.

Combined PET/CT Imaging: The Added Advantage

The PET/CT scanner at Stanford combines two state of the art imaging modalities. By monitoring glucose metabolism, PET provides very sensitive information regardless of whether a growth within the body is cancerous or not. CT meanwhile provides detailed information about the location, size, and shape of various lesions but cannot differentiate cancerous lesions from normal structures with the same accuracy as PET. The combined PET/CT scanner merges PET and CT images together. Every PET/CT scan at Stanford is reviewed and correlated by both a board certified Nuclear Medicine Physician and a board certified Radiologist at a daily joint review session. Separate full reports are generated from each division for each patient.


Patients referred for PET/CT scanning will be required to spend approximately two hours at Stanford. Patients are first injected with a very small amount of the FDG radiotracer. The patient then waits approximately 45-60 minutes prior to scanning to allow for the FDG to adequately target and bind to possible cancer cells within the body. The actual scan takes approximately 35-45 minutes with the patient lying flat within the scanner.

Future of PET/CT at Stanford

The Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford (MIPS) is committed to being at the forefront of medical imaging and is in the midst of the development of new molecular tracers that target specific cancer cells, and using these tracers as a possible vessel for delivery of therpeutic medications to malignant cells. Potential new tracers will be synthesized at the new cyclotron located on the Stanford Medical Center campus and include exciting agents such as FLT for lung cancer, 11C-Choline and 11C-Acetate for prostate cancer.

Stanford Medicine Resources:

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