September 22, 2023Read More
Over the last 15 years, PET scans have become more prevalent, as continually improving technology makes early diagnoses possible and more clear.
Positron emission tomography (PET) falls in the category of nuclear medicine. A PET scan uses a radioactive substance to examine your organs and tissues. Because PET scans can also track changes in biochemical processes, the images show not only what your organs and tissues look like, but also how well they’re functioning.
This post will explain:
PET scans are very effective at showing how various diseases are progressing in your body. It’s why PET scans are commonly used to assess how effective cancer treatment is or whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Some other reasons a doctor may order a PET scan, include:
In a PET scan, you absorb a radioactive sugar substance that travels through your body. The substance, called a radiopharmaceutical, clusters in cells that use a lot of sugar energy (like cancer cells, for instance). It also emits positively charged particles called positrons. Powerful cameras record the positrons as you pass through their donut-shaped array, and compile the recording into images.
Because a PET scan can examine both the structure and function of internal organs and tissues, it replaces multiple other tests. It’s also common to have a PET and CT scan done together. Your doctor may requisition a PET scan to diagnose or assess the progression of a serious condition. But you can also elect to have a PET for a fee at a private medical imaging service provider if you want to proactively monitor for diseases that may be prevalent in your family health history.
A PET scan is typically booked after an appointment with your primary practitioner, should your doctor require more imaging to make a diagnosis. Your physician will provide you with a referral, often a paper requisition, which you must bring to your appointment. Since they use complex equipment and require the use of a radiopharmaceutical, PET scans are not walk-in services. You’ll need to have a requisition and book your appointment in advance.
PET scans can be performed across Toronto and the GTA at the following hospitals and imaging clinics:
PET scans are also available through private clinics, for a fee.
To ensure the best health outcomes, patients needing PET/CT scans are divided into four categories in order of need.
In Toronto, category 2 patients are usually seen within the recommended window. However, wait times for categories 3 and 4 can vary widely, based on the urgency of each patient and the availability of both the equipment and trained technologists.
You’ll need to bring a valid health card and your referral or requisition with you to your appointment, whether you have your scan at a public hospital or private imaging clinic.
Some patients opt to pay for an elective PET scan from a private clinic if they have concerns that can’t wait, or if a serious condition runs in the family health history. The price for a PET scan depends on the type of scan performed and the clinic providing it. Prices in 2023 can range from $999-$3,300.
When you book your PET scan, the imaging clinic or hospital will likely give you a list of things to do to prepare for your appointment, including:
Typically you’ll get the radiopharmaceutical by injection. It will take about an hour to diffuse through your entire body, after which the scan itself should take another 30-60 minutes. Don’t hesitate to ask questions of the PET technologists and doctors, like:
You’ll undoubtedly want to get your results quickly. If your appointment was arranged through your doctor and paid for by OHIP, you’ll likely have a follow-up appointment with your physician after your scan. If you arranged for a privately paid scan, you’ll need to proactively reach out to your doctor with the results.
With PocketHealth, you can quickly and easily access your PET scan images and view the report, sometimes even before your follow-up appointment. The PocketHealth platform allows you to securely access and store your medical images and information in one place. You can also use PocketHealth to share your records directly with care providers and other members of your healthcare team.
PET scan reports are full of complex medical terminology. PocketHealth Report Reader can help you better understand the technical terms and spotlights any follow-up recommendations, so you can be fully informed and confident when discussing the results with your physician. Access your records here.
The radiopharmaceutical used in a PET scan collects where energy is being used, showing up as a bright spot in the image. For example, cancer cells would typically show up as a bright spot because they have a higher metabolic rate than typical cells. However, not all bright spots are considered malignant, so it’s best to review your results in detail with your healthcare team.
A PET scan can help your healthcare provider diagnose and assess the progress of diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer, epilepsy and heart conditions. In addition to what your organs and tissues look like, the precision of a PET scan can illuminate how well they are currently functioning.
Because a PET scan can examine your whole body at once, it can save valuable time by reducing the need for other tests. Although most PET scans are requisitioned by doctors and paid for by OHIP, you can elect to pay for a PET scan at a private clinic.
Secure access to your medical images and reports through PocketHealth allows you to take control of and advocate for your own health. The more knowledge you have, the more confident you can be when discussing next steps with your practitioner.