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What is the PET scan process like?

SisterSledge's picture
Posts: 342
Joined: Feb 2011

I'm getting my first PET scan tomorrow and wonder what the process entails...

I've had CT scans, MRI and ultrasound...and each has been different. For the PET scan, I've been instructed to consume NO CAFFEINE all day today and am expected to not do anything strenuous today...keep my body in "rest state" for the test tomorrow. They said I must fast after midnight but when I get up in the morning I must drink 24 ounces of water in the hour before I come to the hospital. They said to not take any meds the morning of the scan, just bring them with me. They said the process will take 2 1/2 HOURS!!! What exactly am I in for???

Posts: 157
Joined: Jan 2011

My son had his first one last week, he had to fast, was injected with radio active glucose, had to waite an hour and was scanned. The whole process took about 1 1/2 hours and he left with a cd of his scan and went back to work.

The pet scan gave different results than his cat scan...But it was a painless test.

Thinking of you

Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

JP has it right.

NO SUGARS at least 24 hours prior to the test. No strenuous excercise. YOu might want to fast about 12 hours prior to test, so your glucose level will be as low as it can get.

They will prick your finger and check your glucose and then inject you with the material and then they have you wait an hour for that to go around your body for the test.

Then they put you in the scanner...they base the time of treatment on your body weight, so the less you weigh, the less time you are in there. You will lay on your back with your arms over your head and they will feed you into the tube in increments. At one point you are completely inside the cylinder...it's a lot more cramped than the CT but bigger than an MRI. So, if tightness gets to you, just close your eyes and put yourself in a nice space....it will be over before you know it.

Then they release you to go. Your onc will go over the report and see if any areas are lighting up on the scan, one reason you must avoid sugar prior as the glucose solution would light up all over.

Given all of the scan options, this one is not too bad - best of luck with the test and your results.


SisterSledge's picture
Posts: 342
Joined: Feb 2011

Thanks for the info. They didn't mention no sugars...an apple fritter is all I ate earlier today :(
Hopefully three plates of spaghetti for dinner will balance it out.

The arms over head part is the worst...really hurts me at the joint. I will ask them if there is any position or pillow support or something they can do to eleviate this as it was terribly painful for the MRI last week.

Posts: 19
Joined: Feb 2011

Having a blood glucose level that is acceptable for the scan is important, I am diabetic and have to be certain that its below 156, not hard if you have a day or two's notice. The sucrose they give you is how the radio active material is transported / dispersed it attaches itself to the sucrose molecule and is off on a ride looking for cancer ! it then attaches itself to cancer because cancer is aggressively hungry for sugar and that's how the radio active material attaches itself to cancer and shows up on the pet scan .. I have had several PET scans (the last two clean yeah!) and have always found it boring but interesting, they put you in a dark room before the scan for about 45 minutes with no distractions so that the sucrose /radio active solution can be evenly dispersed around your body, I asked if I could listen to an IPOD while sitting in the dark and they said no the extra stimulation in my brain from the sound/music would cause to much of the material to go to my head (makes sense) the PET scan is a terrific tool, and certainly nothing to fear........ as for the hands over the head part I have a shoulder injury and they accommodate it by placing a foam block between my body and arms and strap them (arms) to my side

Posts: 810
Joined: Nov 2009

I was told that even a breath mint was a no no. No sugar at all.

pepebcn's picture
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Joined: Aug 2010

beside that is like a CT. but 1 hour for preparation and 20 minutes on the machine , not problem at all!.

Posts: 63
Joined: Feb 2011

Hi all

My partner has had a few PETScans, we are in the UK, no mention of not taking any sugar here, the process lasted about 2hrs, he had to drink a jug of something before he went in, and afterwards felt pretty tired.

I shall be asking about the sugar thing when we next meet the docs, it seems obvious that this would have an effect on the scan.

Also agree that each type tends to show different things.

Hope it goes well


Scambuster's picture
Posts: 973
Joined: Nov 2009


I have a page on my Expressions or Blog called preparing for PET CT. Regardless of what the Doctors say, these Scans are NOT good for us.

In brief, there are good things to do before the Scan to increase the accuracy of the Scan and aslo to protct yourself as much as possibe from the potential damage casue by the scan and FDG used. Since you will read this after, there is aalso info about Detoxing post scan. Drink heaps and heap of water, fresh juices esp include Wheatgrass if you can, and also load up big on Vit C and other anti-Oxidants to clear all the nasties out.


PS Click on my name and you will get to the page mentioned. Sorry I didn't see you post earlier.

SisterSledge's picture
Posts: 342
Joined: Feb 2011

I'm a bit late in getting back here to see if there was more info posted...wish I'd checked sooner...it's already 48hours past my scan.

Just now I've read the post-PET info on your blog I, and I did have my fresh veggie/fruit juice today and my supplements before I went on to get my chemo treatment. I'll try to drink massive water tomorrow to flush what I can and will shop for the wheatgrass.

Thanks again,

SisterSledge's picture
Posts: 342
Joined: Feb 2011

Thank you all for helping with such great info. Next time, I'll ask my question with more time before the event so there is more chance for your helpful input.

I asked the tech about my shoulder pain issue, and he did strap my arms down to my sides instead. And, I did have to drink some yucky stuff...about 16 ounces of Raspberry Crystal Light (coulda chosen diet soda, but, double yuck!!) with some chemical added that aids in protecting internally from the radioactive sugar stuff, I think.

RickMurtagh's picture
Posts: 586
Joined: Feb 2010

PET scans are like those clear plastic pages of the human body in the Encyclopedia Brittanica! make sure you ask for a disk copy of the scan - it is very cool and with all the filters contains thousands of images (at least the head to mid thigh scan does) for all kinds of viewing options- very cool - it has it's limitations, but very cool none the less!

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