pet scan/help us decide

medical Member Posts: 3

Hello all,

my mother was diagnosed with stage 3C-4 ovarian cancer,she got the debulking surgery before one month and this week was her first chemotherapy shot, CA 125 after surgery still high like 1000

long story short:my mom before surgery only had CT scan of abdomen and Pelvis

last week her primary care physician(not the oncologist) was checking her and doing routine physical exam then he asked us whether her  oncolgist-gynocologist surgeont did a Pet scan for my mother already before or after surgery then we answered no, then the primary doctor was very upset and surprised saying why the hell your oncologist did not do pet scan for you and he scheduled a pet scan for my mother by himself next week.

my mother went to her oncolgist-gynocologist surgeon yesterday and asked his opinion about doing the pet scan scheduled by her primary care physician next week, the oncolgist-gynocologist surgeon felt upset saying no need for pet scan now as it will not change the treatment as my mother will get the chemotherapy anyway, and he said I holded on it because I want your mother to be treated first with chemotherapy and once she finish the treatment I will gonna order a pet scan for her but he said it is up to you whether you want to do it or not and it is your choice.

I am so confused now, should we do the pet scan ordered by her primary care doctor or hold on it as the oncologist-surgeon wants

please help us to decide as you guys have better understanding and have more experience than us

God bless all of you,Amen



  • LorettaMarshall
    LorettaMarshall Member Posts: 662 Member

    Hello “Medical” –

    SAY AGAIN! Some surgeon actually performed Cytoreductive surgery (Debulking) on your mom without doing a PET scan?  Egads! 

    Both my husband and I have been diagnosed with cancer.  Back in 2002, part of his work-up prior to a treatment regimen, he received a PET/CT scan.  At the end of his pre-op chemo/radiation treatment, he had another PET/CT scan to determine the effectiveness of the treatments.

    As for me, when I went to the emergency room at my local hospital, a CT scan was performed, and I was diagnosed with Peritoneal Carcinomatosis.  The doctor pointed out the various tumors “floating around in the peritoneal fluid in my abdomen.” 

    Immediately, I sought a SECOND opinion at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  There a PET/CT scan was ordered as part of my examination.  The PET/CT picked up cancer in both my ovaries as well, that was NOT previously detected by the CT Scan alone.  “Exploratory surgery” was also performed as well, before making their recommendations.

    At that point, I was told that I would need to have a series of chemo treatments prior to any consideration of surgery.  So I came home and underwent a series of Carboplatin/Taxol treatments.  (A series of 6 treatments at 3-week intervals)  I then had another PET/CT scan which revealed that the chemo had reduced the size of the tumors enough that Cytoreductive surgery, commonly called “debulking”, could be performed.  That surgery was performed July 1, 2013. 

    I am curious to know just what the “surgeon” removed in his “debulking” surgery without the benefit of a prior PET scan and/or any type of chemotherapy?  May I assume that your mom did NOT have a SECOND OPINION?

    The PET Scan will detect “live” activity in a way that CT cannot do alone.   These days many medical facilities have a machine that combines a PET scan and a CT scan all in one.  It depends on what doctors are looking for as to what type of scans they perform.  PET scans are commonly used to detect cancer. 

    You have asked for our personal opinion.  As for me, I will tell you that I am “surprised” that such a radical surgery was performed on your Mom without the information that a PET scan provides.  I can understand why your primary care physician is upset.  I think he is right to be upset, and I would say he is correct in ordering a PET scan for your mom.  So if you’re querying the ladies here, as for me, I’m voting with your primary care physician.  If this were me, I would have the PET scan? 


    Peritoneal Carcinomatosis/Ovarian Cancer Stage IV since 2012



    "Positron Emission Tomography and Computed Tomography (PET-CT) Scans

    Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 11/2015


    A PET scan is usually combined with a CT scan. However, you may hear your doctor refer to this procedure just as a PET scan. A PET-CT scan is one way to find cancer and learn its stage. Stage is a way to describe where the cancer is, if it has spread, and if it is changing how your organs work. Knowing this helps you and your doctor choose the best treatment. It also helps doctors predict your chance of recovery..

    How is a PET-CT scan different than a CT scan?

    You might have had a computed tomography (CT) scan. Doctors combine these tests because a CT scan and PET scan show different things. A CT scan shows detailed pictures of tissues and organs inside the body. A PET scan shows abnormal activity. So, the two scans together provide more information about the cancer..."

     (I suggest you read the entire article referenced here.  It will help you to understand the benefits of a PET Scan.


    Positron Emission Tomography (PET Scan)

    A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is a unique type of imaging test that helps doctors see how the organs and tissues inside your body are actually functioning.

    The test involves injecting a very small dose of a radioactive chemical, called a radiotracer, into the vein of your arm. The tracer travels through the body and is absorbed by the organs and tissues being studied.

    Next, you will be asked to lie down on a flat examination table that is moved into the center of a PET scanner—a doughnut-like shaped machine. This machine detects and records the energy given off by the tracer substance and, with the aid of a computer, this energy is converted into three-dimensional pictures.

    A physician can then look at cross-sectional images of the body organ from any angle in order to detect any functional problems.

    What problems can a PET scan detect?

    A PET scan can measure such vital functions as blood flow, oxygen use, and glucose metabolism, which helps doctors identify abnormal from normal functioning organs and tissues. The scan can also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a patient's treatment plan, allowing the course of care to be adjusted if necessary.

    Currently, PET scans are most commonly used to detect cancer, heart problems (such as coronary artery disease and damage to the heart following a heart attack), brain disorders (including brain tumors, memory disorders, seizures) and other central nervous system disorders.

    How is a PET scan different from a CT or MRI scan?

    One of the main differences between PET scans and other imaging tests like CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is that the PET scan reveals the cellular level metabolic changes occurring in an organ or tissue.

    This is important and unique because disease processes often begin with functional changes at the cellular level. A PET scan can often detect these very early changes whereas a CT or MRI detect changes a little later as the disease begins to cause changes in the structure of organs or tissues.

    How should I prepare for a PET scan?

    A PET scan is usually done on an outpatient basis. Your doctor will give you detailed instructions on how to prepare for your scan, including what you may or may not eat or drink before your exam. Before undergoing the scan, be sure to tell your doctor of any medications—prescription and over-the-counter—that you are taking as well as any herbal medications and vitamins. If you are taking certain medications or have certain diseases, such as diabetes, you will be given specific instructions regarding preparation for your scan. Generally, most patients are told not to eat anything for a minimum of 6 hours before the scan. Heart patients are also told to not take any product with caffeine for at least 24 hours. Be sure to wear comfortable clothes to your appointment. You may be asked to change into a hospital gown during the test. In those patients that need an assessment of the area near the bladder, a bladder catheter may need to be inserted.

    It is essential to tell your doctor if you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant before undergoing a PET scan because of radiation exposure.

    How long does the test take?

    Once injected into a vein, the radiotracer typically takes from 45 minutes to 1 hour to travel throughout the body and be absorbed into the organs or tissues to be examined. The scan itself may take another 30 to 60 minutes. The heart and brain studies take less time for imaging.

    You will be asked to remain still for the entire length of the exam, since motion will reduce the quality of the images. Depending on which organ is being examined, there may be additional tests and additional dyes or chemicals used that may lengthen the total appointment time up to 2 to 3 hours. For example, patients being examined for heart disease may undergo a stress test in which PET scans are obtained while at rest followed by the administration of other drugs to examine blood flow to the heart under exercise conditions.

    Does the PET scan pose any risks?

    Although a radiotracer chemical is used in this test, the amount of radiation you are exposed to is low. The dose of tracer used is so small that it does not affect the normal processes of the body. However, the radiotracer may expose the fetus of patients who are pregnant or infants of women who breastfeed to the radiation. You and your doctor need to consider this risk compared with the need for and potential information to be gained from the PET scan.

    How soon will the scan results be available?

    A radiologist who has specialized training in PET scans will interpret the images, write a report, and deliver the results to your doctor. This process usually takes 24 hours.”



  • Tethys41
    Tethys41 Member Posts: 1,382 Member
    Pet Scan

    Dear Medical,

    I had only a CT scan prior to my debulking surgery.  It is an insurance thing actually, as a PET scan is more expensive.  And although it is true that a PET scan will show more activity than a regular CT scan, at this point, your mother has nothing to gain.  If a PET scan was to identify more tumors at this point, the doctor would not perform a second surgery. Additionally, since she has had her surgery and she is doing a lot of healing, many places in her body, which have increased cell activity due to the healing, would light up even though they are not cancerous.  Because a PET scan actually identifies cells that are more active, which are often, but not always cancer cells.  So a PET scan at this point would likely give inaccurate results.  And remember, during the surgery, they actually, physically looked inside of her abdomen and were able to see the tumors.  Also, remember, any of these diagnostic procedures carry with them their own negative impacts.  CT scans use a lot of radiation.  PET scans use radioactive sugar that is injected into the body.  If she had not yet had her surgery, it might be wise to get a second opinion and request a PET scan.  But now that she has had her debulking and is undergoing treament, it only serves to expose her to more toxins with potentially inaccurate results.  

    I wish you luck 

  • wholfmeister
    wholfmeister Member Posts: 315
    edited April 2016 #4
    Second opinions - my opinion

    Hi, Medical,

    i was diagnosed in March 2012 with ovarian cancer via CT scan and MRI assisted biopsy.  I had my first PET scan in December 2015 as part of a second opinion work-up at another cancer center.  The results were interesting, but the insurance refused to pay based on the fact that the results would not change the treatment plan. Which was true.  Even with the added confirmation, the second Gynocologic oncologist recommended the same course of action as the first.

    my cautionary opinion for you is, do not get your second opinion from a generalist, even if you like them as your general doctor.  Get your second opinion from a Gynocologic oncologist with as much or more experience and credentials as your current oncology specialist.  That's my opinion, but also there are some research studies that show longer survival for ovarian cancer patients who receive their treatment from Gynocologic oncologists.

  • scatsm
    scatsm Member Posts: 296 Member
    I echo Wholfmeister and Tethys' opinion

    Decisions like these need to be 90 % gyn/onc and 10% primary care. I would suggest your PPC doc call your GYN-ONC so that he or she can explain why a PET scan isn't needed at this point.

  • Lisa 00
    Lisa 00 Member Posts: 134 Member
    Pet Scan

    Just to share my experience.  I had gone through the surgery and chemo.  Then, when I got to the radiation guys, they ordered the PET scan.  They wanted to know if any of the lymph nodes or any tumors 'lit up'.  If they did, the radiation people were going to direct more focused radiation on those areas.  I wish you and your mother the best on your journey.


  • medical
    medical Member Posts: 3
    edited May 2016 #7
    thank you wonderful people

    thank you dear loretta,

    thank you dear thethys41

    thank you dear wholfmeister

    thank you dear lisa

    you guys are awosome,thank you for helping me