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When is the PET Scan done?

Posts: 22
Joined: Sep 2009

I completed treatment about three months ago, and I have been under the impression that the big sign-off comes when I get my post-treatment PET scan.

I just saw my oncologist this week, and she said they don't expect to do the PET scan for at least a YEAR! She told me that getting a PET scan this soon would show nothing because I'm still "hot" from the radiation treatment.

I DID get a CAT Scan, which looked good. OTOH, the swelling from my lymph nodes, which was visible externally, went down within the first couple of weeks of treatment, so it isn't clear to me that a CAT scan would be able to tell much unless the treatment had failed altogether.

Anyway, I'm just curious when others got their follow-up PET scan. Was it months? A year? Were you concerned if it was delayed?


Posts: 42
Joined: Nov 2009

Jim my husband finished treatment the first of September and he has his first Pet scheduled for December 21. He had his ct the first of November & they told him he had to be out of treatment 3 months before the pet scan could be done. Not sure if this is for everyone, but it is for him. Good luck with all.


Landranger25's picture
Posts: 208
Joined: Nov 2009

I finished 33 rads and 3 chemos back in October. My oncologist said he usually waits 6 months for the first PET but if I wanted 2 months would suffice. My wife said she couldn't wait 6 months so I am having it next Wednesday. Just went and had some blood work this morning and picked up a scrip for some xanax. I have a special diet to follow all day Tuesday and Wednesday morning, xanax hour before scan. Don't know how long to get results. See Oncologist next on 15 January. Additionally, Oncologist said PET every 6 months for 2 years. If all clear after 2 years, he considers it a cure. ENT surgeon kind of agrees but said 5 years clear is much better.


soccerfreaks's picture
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

For what it's worth, my experience is similar to Mike's (Landranger's). I had CT scans every three months followed immediately by visits with OncoMan to evaluate results. At the six month points, both CT and PET were ordered, again followed by visits with OncoMan.

As I understand it from what I've experienced and from what I've read, and I speak only as a fellow survivor, a CT scan is used to capture the anatomy at a given point in time, and, if no obvious anomalies are detected, used after the NEXT scan for comparison: the two are compared to see that nothing has changed.

If there have been changes, significant changes, there is perhaps cause for some concern and maybe even alarm.

A PET scan captures your metabolism (also at a given moment, to be sure) and evaluates it for what I have always heard referenced as 'hot spots'. It is my understanding that the dye you are injected with prior to the scan is used to 'pump up the volume' with respect to cells that are over-amped for sugar intake (this does not mean, as some misconstrue, that sugar is bad for you). The PET scan highlights those areas that are really sucking down the treats, and these become the so-called hot spots.

Your doctor, Jim, can clearly explain that better.

Both pose potential hazards to your health, of course, as both rely on radiation to get the job done, the PET scan, typically, for longer than the CT scan.

That is a good trade-off for us, because it is good, as you note, to know what is going on. But it also deters your doctors from ordering them on a weekly or monthly basis. They want to look out for you, hopefully, and part of that is evident in their efforts not to give you such scans before their time.

To make this simple, in my experience the CT scan discovers the anomalies (if there are any) and the PET scan determines whether these anomalies are 'hot'.

Just for the record, a CT scan may note new anomalies that are simply scar tissue. More likely, a PET scan will discover hot spots that are really not cancer but infectious areas (a decaying tooth for example or cellulitis to name but two), or some such.

A good doctor, I think, will not rely on one scan of either type, or even the combination of the two taken at one time, to determine what is going on, but will then wait, and take those pictures again to see if they look the same or if, in fact, the anomalies have grown.

In any event, Jim, do not think of the PET scan as the 'big sign-off'. The big sign-off, and there has been some discussion in this board about WHEN, but the big sign-off is when your docs declare you all clear and tell you that you are among the fortunate who have survived it.

The 'big sign-off' is when YOU feel that you are all clear.

As usual, I ramble on.

Best wishes with your scan(s) and with your results.

Take care,


delnative's picture
Posts: 450
Joined: Aug 2009

Hello from another Jim.
I finished my rads and chemo in October 2008. I had one stubborn lymph node that refused to shrink, so I had a modified radical neck dissection on Jan. 10 -- at the very moment Obama was taking the oath of office.
Nine days ago I had my first post-treatment PET. My lead doc had told me that he didn't think a scan was necessary because he felt nothing was amiss -- he was right -- but I was insistent on getting the scan. And boy, am I glad I did.
It's good to have scientific evidence that there is no unusual cell division anywhere in my body.
So, be patient. Listen to your doc -- but listen to your heart, too.
Best of luck to you.

--Jim in Delaware

Kent Cass
Posts: 1898
Joined: Nov 2009

I was told every 6 months: my pre-treatment PetScan happened in late-December of 08, and my post-treatment PS happened in mid-July, and have been told my next will be in early-2009.

Hondo's picture
Posts: 6643
Joined: Apr 2009

I did not have my first PET till after a year from my last rad date; the doctor did not see any reason to give me more radiation. Jim don’t let it worry you just get on with everyday life and enjoy what you have, soon cancer will only be a memory in you’re passed.

Take care

Posts: 22
Joined: Sep 2009

Thanks for the replies (more are welcome).

I guess maybe it depends on your particular situation. My swollen lymph gland began shrinking the second week in, and my doctors tell me that every aspect of my treatment has been amazingly fast tracked. When I asked my doctor when we'd "know", she said based on how quickly and smoothly things went, she has already declared this one a "victory".

The reason she gave, as has been noted, is that these tests and scans all have their downside in terms of impact on the body.

She even told a humorous story that one of her patients was detained in a Dunkin Donuts by Homeland Security because they detected him "carrying" radioactive material shortly after having a PET scan.

So I guess I shouldn't worry. And its not like I won't be under very close doctor's supervision. So I guess I'll just try and chill out and enjoy my so-called "new life".

Thanks again!


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