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CT and PET scans

Posts: 16
Joined: Jul 2003

Hi everyone,

Has anyone had the experience of having areas light up on a PET scan that are not cancer? I know it happens with cysts on CT scans.

I've had a very unsettling experience lately and would appreciate any input on this. It's been over two years since my stage IV dx. Before my last surgery (liver resection in August 2003), I used to read all my records on a regular basis. After the last surgery, when it seemed that finally all the cancer was out of me, I felt that I was in the hands of top doctors and decided just to just relax and do my six months of adjuvent chemotherapy. Everything was going beautifully. CEA was quickly down to normal, CT scan after three months was clear. Bloodwork eventually became normal and healthy.

A month after I finished chemo I was feeling wonderful and had a PET scan that my doctor told me was clear. A few weeks later, he found an enlarged lymph node in my neck and did a needle biopsy. It contained malignant cells. He told me that there was an area on the PET scan that did light up, but that he thought it was my port. I then had a CT scan that showed the lymph node in my neck and a some questionable areas in the abdominal region.

After requesting a full set of all my records, I read the PET scan report and was shocked to learn that there were actually three areas on it that lit up! I asked my doctor about this, and he says that he still thinks that the neck node is still an isolated recurrence.

I'm in the process now of getting a second opinion, but would really appreciate hearing if anyone has had a similar experience.


Posts: 768
Joined: Aug 2004

Hi Linda. I had my 1st and only Pet scan a couple of months ago. I guess I will be having more in the future. I was diagnosed with stage 3 rectal cancer.

My pet lit up my tumor like a "sun". I did have area's that were also lit up. I believe they were my kidneys. Now you say, "How could she not know what the area's were?" Well, my husband has been in the radiology field for 20 years now. He personally knows the radiologist who read the scans and we both trust him with my life!

The important thing is to have a Pet scan and A Cat scan at the same time. The tests compliment each other.

As Monika mentioned above, you can get areas to light up that are not cancer. Infection, inflamation, post-op scaring, even if you had eaten some carbs before the test. The test shows metabolic activity at the cellular level. Cancer cells burn more sugar ( glucose ) than the normal cells. The injection you received was glucose with a radioactive marker attached to it. The scn can then see where the "cancerous activity" is.

But, like I said before, there are those instances where areas will light up and not be cancerous.

With that said, anything that looks suspicious, should be looked into. Seeing that your doctor was wrong about the lymph nodes, I would seek a second opinion for your peace of mind.

By the way, when I looked at my scans ( which I have right in front of me now), I screamed at my husband , "What the hell is that?" He assured me that is was normal metabolic activity around my kidneys. The report from the radiologist said that other than the tumor and 1 lymph node, everything was normal.

I hope this helps you. Obviously, I don't know you or your condition and I am by no means a doctor.

Best of luck to you. I know I will be sweating out my after-chemo scans.


Kanort's picture
Posts: 1275
Joined: Jan 2004

Hi Linda,

I don't have anything to add except that my three cancerous lymph nodes did not show up on my PET or CAT scans prior to resection. My surgeon was surprised when the pathology report came back with 3 out of 31 nodes positive.

I have had two more sets of scans since my operation last October, however, I have never asked to read my reports. After seeing how many of you do, maybe, I should ask for a copy of mine.

I think getting a second opinion is always the best solution. Please keep us informed.



Posts: 120
Joined: Apr 2004

Hi Linda
My husband had areas of his Pet Scan that did light up, but turned out to be inflamation. He too had liver resection this past June. Before the surgery he had two areas light up. The Kidney adrenal gland and lymph node near liver. I don't believe our doctor would have told us, but we had requested a written copy of his Cat/Pet results.
So during his liver surgery they did further testing which turned out to show no cancer.
I do know that his doctor likes to do a Cat scan first and then if the area shows something suspicious they do a Pet scan as a follow up right after.
We have also had areas of Cat scan early in his diagnose that showed nodules in Chest and the Pet showed nothing. Hope this helps.
Won't hurt to get a second opinion. Keep us posted.

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