Sometimes cancer comes back after you have been treated. This term is called as Recurrence. Your doctor will monitor you closely for many years to check the possible return of Cancer. Many types of tests are used to help recurrence of Cancer one of which important is imaging tests. known as PET scan. A PET scan is often combined with CT scan. These scans take pictures of your body where cancer might be growing.
What is the PET scan?
A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is an imaging test that allows your doctor to check how your tissues and organs are functioning. A PET scan uses a radioactive drug (tracer) to show this activity. This scan can sometimes detect disease before any other imaging tests. The scan uses a special dye containing radioactive tracers. These tracers are either swallowed, inhaled, or injected into a vein in your arm, depending on what part of the body is being examined. Certain organs and tissues then absorb the tracer. When detected by the PET scanner, a doctor can see how well your organ and tissues are working.
PET scan-CT and PET -MRI
CT scan and MRI can access to the body organs size and shapes and tissues but they cannot access how these works. PET scan shows how an organ works, but without MRI and CT scan it is difficult to pinpoint the exact location of activity within the body. The combined PET scan and CT scan will give a clearer picture of the patient’s situation.
Modern PET scanners are now available with integrated CT scanners which can create two sets of precisely matched images. There are also integrated PET-MRI scanners which are currently only used for head and brain imaging.
Why and How Cancer Recurs
After treatment, small areas of cancer cells can remain in the body. This can happen weeks, months, or even years after the primary or original cancer was treated. Cancer occurs when and where that depends on the type of cancer.
Cancer may recur in the following ways:
1. Near where the primary cancer was located, this type is called as Local recurrence.
2. Cancer has come back in the lymph nodes near the place it first started. This type is called as Regional recurrence.
3. In another part of the body. This type is called as a Distant recurrence.
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Know what symptoms of cancer recurrence to watch out for.
- Be aware of symptoms that could mean cancer has returned.
- Get regular check-ups that include a medical history and physical exam.
- Unusual pain that’s unrelated to injury.
- Easy bleeding or unexplained bruising.
- Chills or fever.
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- Blood in your urine or stools.
- shortness of breath.
- A chronic cough.
- New lumps and bumps with no known cause.
- Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea.
- Ask your doctor which test is right for your situation.
When is PET-CT scans appropriate?
- See if/how well cancer treatment is working.
- Help your doctor plan radiation therapy.
- Discover the right location for a biopsy.
If your doctor suspects cancer recurrence based on your symptoms, a physical examination, and other tests. Then PET scan CT would be your next appropriate step. A scan may also be recommended if you were treated for advanced cancer. You can’t prevent cancer recurrence, but you can sure take a step towards a healthy lifestyle, possible by eating a healthy diet and being physically active. Cancer affects each person differently and you should work with your doctor to determine the most effective course of action.
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What this means for patients
PET and PET-CT scans can be very helpful to diagnose the stages of cancer. In some cases, it has happened that these tests indicate a person has a cancer recurrence when they actually do not. Hence, unnecessary follow-ups and testing have done. For the patient, Such situations can be exhausting physically, emotionally, and financially. As prevention after the cancer treatment talk to your doctor about the goal of each upcoming scan and how it will be the monitor for recurrence as a part of follow- up.