Health A-Z

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Harvard Medical School

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What It's Used For

A PET scan may be used to evaluate people with the following illnesses:

  • Cancer PET scans can be used to detect cancerous tumors, to determine how much cancer has spread) and to determine how well cancer treatment is working. They are used most often in patients with brain cancer, colorectal cancer, lymphoma, melanoma or lung cancer.

  • Brain diseases PET scans can be used to evaluate neurological illnesses, especially epilepsy, and Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

  • Cardiac illnesses PET scans can be used to evaluate how well the heart muscle is functioning in patients with coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathy.

PET scans also are used for research in other areas, including drug addiction, psychiatric illnesses and stroke. Medical specialists are just beginning to discover how PET scans can be used to evaluate a wide range of patients. New uses are being found every year. Because some types of PET scans still are considered experimental by some medical insurers, check with your doctor and your medical insurer before your scan to verify your coverage for this procedure.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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