Some doctors may also order a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. The PET scan may reveal areas where there is abnormal, perhaps cancerous, tissue. PET scans are used in situations where there may be scar tissue present and are used in conjunction with CT scans in many cases. They are also often used to find the stage of cancer.
With a PET scan, a radioactive substance is injected into the blood. This substance is usually a type of sugar related to glucose. After some time, the scanners can detect and will show images of the tissue that is interacting with the substance. Due to the quick growth activity of cancer cells, they absorb more of the injected substance compared to other healthy cells.
Even though the picture results from a PET scan are not as detailed as a CT or MRI scan, they can provide doctors with very helpful information regarding if abnormal areas are cancerous or not. Many doctors use this test to see if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, which usually implies that the cancer is in a later stage according to the TNM staging system. PET scans can also help determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body as well.
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