Radiation Oncology Services

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PET-CT Scans

PET-CT scanning is one of the most powerful diagnostic tools available, enabling doctors to determine the precise location of a tumor.

PET-CT works by merging two imaging techniques, each of which records a different part of the body.

Technique Procedure
PET (positron emission tomography) sees metabolic processes, useful for targeting tumors. In a PET scan, you receive an injection with a small amount of radioactive sugar that the scanner can see through the body.

Cancer cells — because they grow more rapidly than healthy cells — often consume much of the sugar, allowing the scanner to make precise images of the tumor.
CT (computed tomography) sees a 360-degree view of the body, useful for taking 3D pictures. Similar to traditional x-rays, CT scans show a higher level of detail and take more accurate pictures of the brain and body.

Combining the images from the two scanners provide a complete picture of the tumor’s location, size, and shape.

Doctors then use this information to:

What are the benefits of PET-CT scans?

A PET-CT scanner

The level of detail of PET-CT images:

The introduction of PET-CT has made it easier to diagnose people with head and neck cancer and melanoma, two formerly hard-to-spot cancer types.

And, it provides greater diagnostic accuracy in a variety of other cancers, including:

In 1998, UPMC became home to the first PET-CT scanner. UPMC has since utilized the technology in more than 10,000 clinical cases and remains a pioneer in the use of PET-CT technology.

Mobile PET-CT

Despite the benefits of PET-CT, the cost of the equipment has caused PET-CT to be limited to larger hospitals.

To bring PET-CT closer to patients, UPMC offers a mobile PET-CT unit that allows many community cancer centers to share equipment and provide the benefits of PET-CT scans, without requiring additional travel from home.


PET-CT imaging is available at hospital-based locations. The diagnostic images taken from the mobile unit are evaluated on-site, or sent to radiologists at hospital-based locations for evaluation.

Your oncologist can provide more information about PET-CT technology.

We offer PET-CT scanning at many UPMC CancerCenter radiation oncology network locations.