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A 46-year-old member asked:

What does a cancer free pet scan show? when a pet scan shows that a person is cancer free, does that really mean they're done with cancer? is it cured? are there any general statistics for a person who had cancer, but a pet scan later showed that the canc

3 doctor answers4 doctors weighed in
Dr. Geoffrey Rutledge
Internal Medicine 41 years experience
PET : Pet scans are used for diagnosis, staging, and restaging of certain kinds of cancers such as lung, colorectal, esophageal, and head and neck cancers, and for monitoring response to therapy in breast cancer. Different kinds of cancers behave differently, and there is no guarantee that a given cancer is completely "cured, " even following complete remission. In general, evidence of a complete remission on a pet scan is a very favorable prognostic sign, and indicates that treatment was successful. Followup pet scans are still performed at regular intervals, often for the patient's lifetime, in order to monitor for any possible recurrence that might require new treatment. In general, if follow-up pet scans continue to show no evidence of disease over a period of many years, the likelihood of recurrence is low.
Dr. Lauren Stegman
Radiation Oncology 27 years experience
PET : Pet scans usually can only see tumor measuring about the size of a small pea (just under 1 cm). Tumors this size already contain about 1 billion cancer cells. Pet scans can have a harder time detecting some kinds of cancer and there are some places in the body, like the brain or bladder, where small tumors can be hard to see on a pet scan.
Dr. Joseph Accurso
Radiology 29 years experience
No Hypermetabolism: A negative pet/ct just means there were no areas of increased metabolism (usually glucose consumption) to raise concern. It is not proof of cancer cure. Why not? Because very small cancers (less than a few mm) the camera cannot detect, and some cancers do not consume much more glucose than normal tissue, so they blend in like 1 leaf in a forest.

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Last updated Nov 25, 2020

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