Every year medical science takes leaps not steps. Combine two excellent diagnostic techniques for finding cancer and you have an often life-saving test that's precise. Doctors at Mayo Clinic are using two types of scans in one test. CT scans and what's called a PET scan equals a more accurate diagnosis, and could save you from unnecessary biopsies or surgery.
A CT scan looks at tissue density to detect abnormal structures in the body. In other words if there's a lump someplace where there shouldn't be a lump. PET scan is a measure of metabolism. Meaning, it can tell the difference between normal tissue and cancerous tissue by measuring how the tissue metabolizes, or uses sugar. Doctors inject a small amount of safe, radioactive sugar into your body. It's taken up in small amounts by normal tissue and in large amounts by cancerous tissue. When scanned, malignancies then light up as hot spots. If CT scans locate tumor, and PET scans determine if those tumors are likely cancerous, combining the techniques helps doctors make a more accurate diagnosis.
These scans are especially useful in helping doctors determine whether or not a cancer patient needs surgery. For example, if the CT-PET scanner shows that a cancer is only in one spot, the patient may have it removed. But if the scan shows the cancer has spread to several places, or is very advanced, the patient may be spared painful surgery that won't help. The CT/PET scanners work for many types of cancers including lung, head and neck, esophageal, melanoma and colorectal.