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How Can I See My PET Scan Results Online?

February 29, 2024 | PocketHealth
PET Scan Results Image of Brain

Wondering how soon you can access and review the results of your PET scan online? With PocketHealth, your health records are at your fingertips.

Knowing how to access your PET results can give you valuable insights into your health and allow you to have confident, more informed conversations with your referring practitioner.

In Canada and the U.S., you have the right to access any of your health information contained in medical or health records. Access to diagnostic-quality images alongside the report for your PET scan lets you take control of your health and share your health information and results with any care provider you choose, making it easy to get a second opinion and compare medical documents over time.

Using PocketHealth you can quickly access, securely store, understand and share all your medical images and reports. Access your records here.

Knowing what to expect and how to understand the results of your PET scan can help you learn:

  • How quickly you can access your PET scan images and report
  • What medical terms are in your PET scan report
  • How to share the results of your PET scan with your healthcare team and family
  • Who has access to your results

What’s a PET scan and how does it work?

Short for positron emission tomography, a PET scan is an imaging tool that provides visual proof of the biochemical activities in your cells.

During a PET scan procedure, the patient is injected with a small amount of a radioactive substance called a tracer. By tracking this substance, a PET scan can show how well the cells in one area of the body are functioning. The detailed images from a PET scan help a radiologist determine how well an organ is working and whether there are any anatomical irregularities in the tissue. This can help identify the onset of certain diseases.

The procedure takes about an hour and is conducted in a separate scanning room while the technologist monitors the procedure from a control room. You’ll be asked to change into a hospital gown before your scan and will be given an injection of a radioactive substance. A drug called fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), a type of radioactive sugar or glucose, is a commonly used radioactive tracer.

Once the substance has worked through your veins, you will lie down on an exam table that moves through a large, donut-shaped machine called a PET scanner. As you move through the machine, the PET scanner picks up signals from the tracer and sends them to a computer for the radiologist to review. You will hear clicking sounds as this happens.

Levels of radiation exposure during a PET scan are very low and an allergic reaction to the radioactive tracer is extremely rare. Your doctor will assess whether the benefits outweigh the risks of low-level radiation exposure before you’re sent for the scan.

Upon completion of the scan, you’ll be asked to drink plenty of clear liquids to help clear the tracer from your body.

What do PET scans check for?

PET scans are used to assess the function of organs and tissues and to check for diseases, including cancer. Identifying cancer and monitoring cancer treatment are the most common reasons for a PET scan. A PET scan shows early indicators of the disease by tracing the movement of the radioactive tracer in and out of cancer cells.

PET scans are used for different medical purposes, such as:

  • Diagnosing brain disorders like dementia or epilepsy
  • Detecting and assessing the trauma from a cerebrovascular accident, like a stroke
  • Detecting cancer or the spread of cancer
  • Determining the effectiveness of cancer treatment
  • Assessing reduced blood flow to the heart to monitor heart disease
  • Evaluating lung cancer lesions and managing lung cancer treatment
  • Detecting recurring tumors sooner than other diagnostic modalities

What is a PET-CT scan and how is it different than a CT scan?

Technology that combines a PET scan with computed tomography is known as a PET-CT scan. CT scans use the same technology as X-rays to create cross-sectional images of different areas of the body that are less detailed than PET images.

PET and CT images each help detect disease or monitor treatment, but PET-CT scan results combine PET and CT images to give the radiologist a more thorough view of your body.

How long does it take for a patient to get results from a PET scan?

You’re not alone if you feel anxious waiting for your PET scan results: more than 50% of Canadians feel anxious or stressed waiting for medical test results, according to a 2023 PocketHealth survey. Having secure, online access to your PET scan results as soon as they’re available can help reduce stress or “scanxiety”—and 68% of Canadians want access to effectively advocate for their health.

Accessing your results quickly can help alleviate some of the anxiety you may feel awaiting your follow-up appointment. Although you may be able to access your results through the online portal of your imaging center, these sharing methods can take days, and the timing can change depending on different factors impacting your case.

Circumstances that could change how quickly you receive your PET scan results include:

  • The urgency of your case. In urgent cases, your doctor may receive your results quickly.
  • The complexity of your scan. It may take a radiologist longer to review PET scans that cover a large area or require an in-depth assessment.
  • Whether the radiologist requires more information. Your physician may send you for more imaging if the radiologist needs more information to assess your results properly.
  • Comparing different scan results over time. The radiologist who reviews your imaging will compare it to previous PET results or other medical imaging you’ve had.
  • Transferring your PET scan results to your referring practitioner. Diagnostic imaging, including PET scans, is often transferred to your physician electronically or via CD. In some cases, technical issues can delay your results or cause portions of your results to arrive separately from each other.

The results available through an online portal may contain only the radiologist’s report, not your images. And if the results do include images, these may not be of diagnostic quality. Diagnostic quality imaging is valuable because it allows you to review your results just as your physician does and enables you to easily get a second opinion.

5 Benefits of having access to your PET scan results

  1. You get faster, easier access. PocketHealth enables you to see your images and reports the moment the hospital imaging department or clinic releases them. No need to anxiously await your follow-up doctor’s appointment.
  2. You can share your results. If you want to keep your entire healthcare team up to date or need a second opinion, you can email, print or fax a secure access page to another practitioner from your account. And that practitioner doesn’t need to be on PocketHealth to view your PET scan images in full, diagnostic quality.
  3. You can ask more informed questions. It can be challenging to decipher the complex medical terms in your PET scan report. With PocketHealth Report Reader, you can easily understand what those terms mean, allowing you to have more informative conversations with your practitioner during a follow-up appointment.
  4. You’ll get personalized health insights. A study from the American College of Radiology reports that 60% of medical imaging recommendations aren’t followed up on. With PocketHealth MyCare Navigator, you’ll know when a follow-up is needed, allowing you to be on top of the recommended next steps. MyCare Navigator also gives you valuable insights into your health by suggesting informed follow-up questions for your doctor and access to preventative bone screening tools.
  5. You own your records. All your records are secured with bank-level encryption technology and will always be centralized in one place for you to access and share. PocketHealth secure storage helps you avoid requesting records in writing, which can take 30–60 days and may require a fee.

With quick, secure access to your PET scan imaging and report, PocketHealth lets you arrive at your next appointment informed, confident and ready to participate in your own care.

How can you access and understand your PET scan report online?

Your PET scan outputs are the report and images generated by the scan. The radiologist will assess your PET scan images and send their findings in a report to your doctor, which they will review at your follow-up appointment. You can also gain access to your report online through the imaging clinic or PocketHealth’s secure site.

You may encounter some complex medical terms in your PET scan report. If you get your results ahead of your follow-up appointment, PocketHealth Report Reader can help you better understand those terms by providing simple definitions.

For a more personalized experience, MyCare Navigator tracks your recommended follow-ups and provides a list of questions to discuss with your doctor based on your report results.

What are the coronal, sagittal and axial planes?

The term “plane” is used to describe the position of a patient in a PET scan image. Images are obtained in 1 plane and then reconstructed across 3 different planes to capture a full, 360° view of your body’s internal organs and structures:

  • Coronal: A frontal view that presents images from the front to the back of your body.
  • Sagittal: A cross-sectional side view that provides lateral images of the left to the right sides of your body.
  • Axial: Also called a transverse view, this horizontal view captures images of the top to the bottom of your body.

What’s FDG uptake?

To assess the function of the soft tissues and organs in your body, you’ll be given a radioactive tracer before your scan begins. The radioactive tracer allows the radiologist to track the amount of FDG “taken up” or used by cells and how quickly.

The amount and rate are often recorded on your report as FDG uptake, and you may see it referred to like this:

  • No uptake. FDG does not cluster in any area.
  • Normal uptake. Certain areas, like your brain, spleen and liver require a lot of glucose, so it’s common to have a higher FDG uptake in these areas.
  • Mild or low-grade uptake. Normal fatty tissue often has a lower uptake, but this can also indicate an area that needs further exploration.
  • Abnormal uptake. Areas with an unexpected FDG uptake show unusual glucose absorption and require further investigation. Cancer cells, for example, use a lot of glucose for energy.

What’s Standard Uptake Value?

You’ll also see a lot of numbers on your PET scan report. These numbers indicate the standard uptake value (SUV)—a ratio defining the activity of the tracer in a specific area of a PET scan image captured at a specific point in time. SUV is also known as the dose uptake ratio.

An increase in SUV shows an increase in metabolic activity, which sometimes, but not always, indicates aggressive growth in that region suggestive of cancer cells.

Metabolic activity is referred to in different intensities:

  • Low, indicating <5 SUV
  • Moderate, indicating 5–10 SUV
  • Intense, indicating 10–15 SUV
  • Very intense, indicating >15 SUV

SUV value can give insights into the progression of disease or treatment and is particularly useful in comparing multiple scans over time.

What’s a Deauville Score?

You may also see the term Deauville score (DS) on your report. This score runs from 1 to 5, indicating the least to most FDG uptake in certain areas, particularly above and below your liver and in the space between your lungs, called the mediastinum. When it comes to your DS score, a lower number is what you want to see.

What abnormalities can a PET scan detect?

A PET scan will also show the radiologist any abnormalities in the scanned area, such as:

  • Lesions. Damaged tissue, organ or bone.
  • Calcifications. Small areas of hardened tissue.
  • Cysts. Thin-walled sacs filled with fluid.
  • Masses. Unexpected clusters of tissue.
  • Nodules. Small lumps of tissue less than 1 cm in diameter that appear different than the surrounding normal tissue.
  • Tumors. Spots of abnormal cell growth.

What is a normal result from a PET scan?

You may see the term “unremarkable” on your PET scan report. Unremarkable means the PET scan didn’t reveal any significant abnormal findings. That means the radiologist did not find any areas requiring further exploration or treatment—in other words, a normal result.

Who has access to the results of my PET scan?

Your PET scan results may be available to many different parties, depending on your individual case. The radiologist reviewing your results will have access, as will your referring physician, but in some cases, insurance companies and different care centers will also require access.

Here’s a list of individuals and other parties who may have access to your PET scan results:

  • You. Patients are generally entitled to access to their own medical records. You can gain access to your medical records through some patient portals or via secure online platforms like PocketHealth.
  • The PET scan technologist. A trained technologist will capture the images during your imaging test before sending them to the radiologist.
  • The radiologist. The clinic or hospital where you get your PET scan will have radiologists on staff to review your imaging and create a report based on what they see. This report is sent directly to your referring physician. You can get access as soon as the report is released by the hopsital imaging department or clinic using PocketHealth.
  • Your primary care provider (often a referring physician). The radiologist will send your PET scan images and report to your primary care provider, who will review the results and discuss them with you at a follow-up appointment.
  • Parent or legal guardian. In cases where a minor requires a PET scan, a parent or legal guardian will have access to their medical reports to facilitate medical care and treatment.
  • Advocate or caregiver. In cases where a patient cannot sign a consent form to receive their medical records, their advocate or caregiver will receive the records on their behalf.
  • Insurance companies. When a PET scan is required to assess the details of an injury or treatment requiring insurance coverage, an insurance company has the right to review medical imaging and reports.
  • Care facilities. Nurses and staff at long-term care facilities can view the records of patients who require specialized care. Treatment is often ongoing and staff need up-to-date medical records to provide the best care.
  • Rehabilitation centers. Patients who visit a rehabilitation center may require medical treatment, and attendant doctors or nurses can view their records to ensure they provide the best care.
  • Hospitals and labs. These facilities often need to review current and prior medical records, including PET scan imaging and reports, to make sure they can provide the best treatment and recommendations.

Being an advocate for your health

Waiting for your PET scan results can be a nerve-wracking process. Having secure access to your images and reports allows you to understand those results ahead of an appointment with your physician. That way, you can prepare more informed questions about any next steps in your healthcare journey.

With PocketHealth, you can have early access to your PET scan images and report, often as soon as they’re released by the radiologist. PocketHealth is a secure platform where you can see, share and store all your medical images and reports in one place. Access your records today.

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