Getting a PET Scan in Toronto? Where to Go and What to Know

PET Scan Toronto

If you’re trying to book a PET scan in Toronto, here’s the information you need to find a clinic and access your results faster.

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:

  • Why you might get a PET scan
  • Where to book one in Toronto
  • How to prepare for your scan
  • How to access your images and report

When should you get a PET scan?

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:

  • Monitoring brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s or disorders like epilepsy
  • Assessing any damage caused by a heart attack
  • Understanding the cause of a seizure or stroke
  • Investigating renal changes

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.

Where to get a PET scan in Toronto

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.

How long will it take to get a PET scan in Toronto?

To ensure the best health outcomes, patients needing PET/CT scans are divided into four categories in order of need.

  • Category 1 is for emergency patients, who are seen immediately.
  • Category 2 patients should be seen within 2 days.
  • Category 3 patients should receive a scan within 10 days.
  • Category 4 patients should be seen within 28 days.

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.

How much does it cost to get a PET scan in Toronto?

In Toronto, OHIP will cover the cost of a PET scan if:

  • There is evidence the PET scan has the potential to benefit you, the patient
  • PET scanning provides advantages over other imaging tests (e.g., ultrasound)
  • The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has approved the funding

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.

How to prepare for your PET scan

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:

  • Refrain from eating or drinking anything for 4-6 hours before your appointment
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco and caffeine for 24 hours before your scan
  • Don’t exercise vigorously the day before
  • Choose clothing without belts, buttons or metal (including zippers)
  • Depending on what part is being scanned, you may be asked to wear a gown
  • Let the staff know if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Inform the staff if you have diabetes. Because the radiopharmaceutical contains glucose, the clinic will have separate instructions for people who take insulin

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:

  • How long will the scan last?
  • Can anyone join me in the exam room?
  • How will you share my images and report with my doctor?
  • Are there any side effects?
  • Is there anything you would recommend doing or avoiding after the appointment?

How quickly can you get your results from a Toronto PET clinic?

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.

How to understand your PET scan results

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.

PET scans: A proactive way to take control of your healthcare

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.

How PocketHealth works

Learn more about how to use PocketHealth to access and share your PET scan records.

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