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Are PET Scans Beneficial During Cancer Diagnosis, Staging and Monitoring?
Date:8/13/2008

PORTLAND, Ore., Aug. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Today positron emission tomography (PET) scanning is emerging as an increasingly helpful oncology tool for diagnosis, staging and monitoring. It is a computer-based, low-resolution imaging technology emitting a radioactive tracer to localize tumors. The radioactive positron tracer gathers in abnormal tissue. As a result, the malignant tissue stands out from normal tissue and appears as a "hot spot."

The use of multiple imaging technologies is growing in importance for the diagnosis, staging and monitoring treatment for many types of cancers. Once an oncologist diagnoses a patient with cancer, current standards of care require the doctor to decide which stage a cancer patient has reached. Before completing a treatment plan, the oncologist must decide whether the malignancy is localized, attacking nearby tissues or spreading to other parts of the body.

"After the staging step, oncologists often monitor a patient's cancer treatment for effectiveness or reappearance of a tumor," said Dr. Skip Freedman, executive medical director at AllMed Healthcare Management, a leading Independent Review Organization (IRO). http://www.allmedmd.com

According to Freedman, an oncologist usually combines a PET scan with computed tomography (CT) to capture higher resolution pictures of a patient's tissue. Because the PET images are low-resolution, oncologists combine the two to increase the image resolution and clarity of any "hot spots" showing up in the PET scan.

However, scanning is expensive, about $1,800 for PET and $2,100 for a combined PET and CT scan. Both also emit high doses of radiation, about 150 chest x-ray equivalents (CXREs) for a PET scan and 350 to 550 CXREs for combined PET and CT scans. One CXRE equals the radiation a patient receives from one X-ray. So there are tradeoffs for both doctors and patients to consider.

"For many tumors, PET sc
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SOURCE AllMed Healthcare Management
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