Which is Better: CT or PET Scans for Cancer?

One of the more interesting elements of working in the medical field is that as technology and research advances, what we once believed to be the best method may not be. Where people once thought that butter was good for burns and that smoking wasn’t harmful, we now know better. The world of medical imaging is similar. As the technology advances, more studies are done for different diseases, and we are quickly learning that some of the standard ways of thinking might be subject to change.

Just recently, a new article was published in the Oncology Journal by Cancer Network showed that in one recent study where CTs were the premier choice for finding cancer and determining the degree of disease. CTs or computed tomography, uses computer technology and x-ray in order to create cross-sectional images that physicians glean information. CTs are beneficial when searching for cancer because CTs create cross-sectional images, allowing doctors to see deep into the body through organs, bones, vessels and other blockages. By making cross-sectional images, CTs can examine one section of the organ or area from a multitude of angles. For cancer in the beginning stages, it can very difficult to determine where it is located exactly and where in the body a biopsy needs to be performed.

That is why testing our old ways of thinking is so crucial in this field of medicine. This most recent article found that PET scans for cancer are more beneficial at finding and determining the extent of follicular lymphoma, a form of cancer in which cells a circular pattern in the lymph nodes. There are so many kinds of follicular lymphoma that classifying one in a patient can be difficult even for oncologists. 1 out 5 of every kind of lymphatic cancer is follicular lymphoma making it a common form of cancer and thus all the more important to have the best kind of procedure to go about diagnosing the disease.

PET scans can be used for determining a number of conditions. Most often PET scans for cancer, some cardiovascular problems and a few brain disorders. According to this recent study, PET-CT scans are more proficient at finding follicular lymphoma than contrast-enhanced CT. Contrast material is commonly used in CT scans as a ways for doctors to determine areas of increased or decreased blood flow and to increase the visibility of body tissue or blood vessels. Sometimes contrast material is administered orally to outline the digestive tract and sometimes and intravenous injection is needed to see if body organs are behaving abnormally and/or  possible tumors are present. In PET-CT scans for cancer or heart and brain health, a small dosages of radioactive drug is used to show the differences between healthy and diseased tissue. The radioactive material requires about 30-90 minutes to travel through the body in order to show up on the scan. Do not be alarmed by the use of the word “radioactive.” We use this term to mean that it will react to the PET-CT scan and provides a higher level of contrast which is particularly beneficial when trying to spot difficult to find cancer cells. When it comes to cancer cells, you want to be more than thorough, you want to be exact.