PET Scans Enable More Targeted Cancer Treatments

Posted by petct on April 18th, 2017

In the fight against cancer, knowledge is often the key to putting a patient on a path that will lead to successful treatment. While CT scans and X-rays can help determine that tumors are present and provide some valuable information, they lack in the ability to provide real-time, actionable data meant to tailor treatments directly to a patient. As positron emission tomography, or PET scans, become more sophisticated, it is these tests that are shining in providing the type of information doctors truly need to make potentially lifesaving decisions on a case-by-case basis.

PET scans are designed to produce three-dimensional images of structures within the body. Unlike CT scans and X-rays that tend to do better with larger, bonier structures that are calcium based, PET scans can get right down to the molecular level. When radioactive tracers are used in conjunction with these tests, doctors can detect specific molecules that may help them more readily identify the stage, nature and aggressiveness of cancer tumors. They can also use this type of test to determine if a tumor is well-oxygenated, is drawing an abundance of fuel or is changing in its size, shape and nature. Different tracers have been designed to latch on, or more aptly light up, different molecules in the body. In cancer testing, for example, a tracer might be designed to attract to breast cancer cells. When it does, the cells light up on the resulting PET images.

Of particular interest as of late are PET tracers that can help doctors determine how much oxygen is in a tumor. This tracer enables clinicians to detect tumors that are more aggressive and more resistant to treatments. Generally, low oxygen tumors tend to pose bigger treatment challenges. They may also pose a higher risk of disease spread. By enabling a sound gauging of oxygen levels, PET scans combined with the right tracer can also help doctors determine what treatments might be most beneficial to patients. Low oxygen tumors, for example, may respond more readily to newer drugs that are designed to specifically target them.

As medical imaging continues to advice, doctors are gaining access to tools that can help them better tailor cancer treatments, monitor treatment response and “see” inside their patients’ bodies as treatments are progressing. These revelations delivered courtesy of PET scans and the continued development of new tracers may someday make it much easier for doctors to treat and help their patients beat cancer more readily.

About Author

PET / CT of Las Colinas was developed with both patients and physicians in mind and our services have been used for various types of disease; primarily in detecting, staging and monitoring cancer, but also in heart disease and brain disorders.

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