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PET Scan for Sarcoma: Diagnosis and Staging

15 May, 2023

Blog author iconZafeer Ahmad
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Sarcoma is a type of cancer that affects the body's connective tissues, such as muscles, bones, cartilage, and fat. PET scan, short for Positron Emission Tomography, is a non-invasive diagnostic imaging test that uses a special dye with radioactive tracers to detect cancer cells in the body. PET scans are increasingly being used to diagnose and stage sarcomas. In this article, we will discuss how PET scans are used in the diagnosis and staging of sarcomas.

Understanding Sarcoma

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Before we dive into the details of PET scans for sarcomas, let's take a closer look at what sarcoma is. Sarcoma is a rare type of cancer, accounting for only 1% of all adult cancers. It can occur in any part of the body, but it typically starts in the connective tissues. Sarcomas can be categorised into two main types: soft tissue sarcoma and bone sarcoma. Soft tissue sarcoma can develop in the muscles, tendons, fat, blood vessels, nerves, and other tissues that connect or support organs. Bone sarcoma, on the other hand, can develop in any bone in the body. Sarcomas can be aggressive and spread quickly, making early detection and accurate staging essential for effective treatment.

Understanding PET Scan

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PET scan is a type of nuclear medicine imaging test that uses a small amount of radioactive material, called a radiotracer, to visualise the activity of cancerous cells in the body. The radiotracer is injected into the patient's vein, and it travels through the bloodstream to the organs and tissues. The radiotracer emits gamma rays, which are detected by the PET scanner. The scanner generates images that show the distribution of the radiotracer in the body, which indicates the activity of cancerous cells.

PET Scan for Sarcoma Diagnosis

PET scan is a diagnostic imaging test that uses a special dye called a radiotracer to detect cancer cells in the body. The radiotracer is a substance that contains a small amount of radioactive material. The PET scanner detects the radiation emitted by the radiotracer to create images of the inside of the body. The images produced by a PET scan can show how well organs and tissues are functioning, as well as the presence and extent of any cancer cells.

PET scans are increasingly being used to diagnose sarcomas. A PET scan can help doctors determine the size, location, and stage of a sarcoma. PET scans are also used to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment and monitor for any cancer recurrence.

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Preparing for a PET Scan

Before undergoing a PET scan, patients need to prepare by following certain guidelines. They should inform their healthcare provider about any allergies, medical conditions, or medications they are taking. They may need to fast for a certain period before the scan and avoid certain foods that can affect the accuracy of the test. They may also need to stop taking certain medications or adjust their dosage. Pregnant or breastfeeding women need to inform their healthcare provider as the radiotracer may harm the foetus or pass through breast milk.

Procedure of a PET Scan

The PET scan procedure typically takes between 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the area being scanned. Patients will lie down on a table that slides into the PET scanner. The radiotracer will be injected into the patient's vein, and the patient will need to wait for a certain period before the imaging process begins. The scanner generates images of the body by detecting the gamma rays emitted by the radiotracer. The patient may need to lie still during the procedure to ensure clear images.

PET Scan for Sarcoma Staging

Staging is the process of determining the extent of cancer in the body, including how large the tumour is and whether it has spread to nearby or distant parts of the body. Staging is important because it helps doctors determine the best treatment plan for a patient.

PET scans are a valuable tool in the staging of sarcomas. PET scans can detect small tumours that may not be visible on other imaging tests, such as CT scans or MRI scans. PET scans can also detect whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes or distant organs.

How PET Scans are Performed?

PET scans are non-invasive and painless. Before the scan, the patient is injected with a radiotracer. The radiotracer is typically administered through an IV in the arm. The patient is then asked to lie still on a table while the scanner takes images of the body. The scanner may take images of the entire body or just a specific area, depending on the purpose of the scan.

PET scans typically take about 30 to 60 minutes to complete. Patients may need to fast for several hours before the scan, and they should avoid strenuous physical activity for several days before the scan.

Benefits of PET Scans for Sarcoma

PET scans have several benefits when it comes to diagnosing and staging sarcomas. Some of these benefits include:

  • PET scans can detect small tumours that may not be visible on other imaging tests.
  • PET scans can help doctors determine the extent of cancer in the body, which is essential for effective treatment planning.
  • PET scans can help doctors evaluate the effectiveness of treatment and monitor for any cancer

Risks of PET Scans for Sarcoma

While PET scans are generally safe, there are some risks associated with the procedure. The radiotracer used in PET scans contains a small amount of radiation, which can be harmful in large doses. However, the amount of radiation used in a PET scan is relatively low and is not considered harmful to most patients.

Some patients may experience an allergic reaction to the radiotracer, which can cause symptoms such as itching, hives, and difficulty breathing. However, these reactions are rare and can be treated with medication.

Interpreting PET Scan Results

Interpreting the results of a PET scan requires specialised training and experience. The images produced by a PET scan can be difficult to interpret, and false positives and false negatives can occur.

A false positive occurs when a PET scan shows cancer where there is none. This can happen if there is inflammation or infection in the body, which can also show up on a PET scan.

A false negative occurs when a PET scan fails to detect cancer that is present in the body. This can happen if the cancer cells are small or if they are located in an area that is difficult to image.

Conclusion

PET scans are a valuable tool in the diagnosis and staging of sarcomas. They can detect small tumours that may not be visible on other imaging tests, and they can help doctors determine the extent of cancer in the body. PET scans are also useful for monitoring the effectiveness of treatment and for detecting any cancer recurrence.

However, interpreting PET scan results requires specialised training and experience, and false positives and false negatives can occur. Patients should discuss the risks and benefits of PET scans with their healthcare provider before undergoing the procedure.

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FAQs

No, a PET scan is one of several imaging tests that can be used to diagnose sarcoma. Other tests may include CT scans, MRI scans, and biopsies.