Understanding the Difference between a CT scan and PET scan | mumble in the jungle

Understanding the Difference between a CT scan and PET scan

CT scan

Highly technical medical terms can often confuse a patient. How does one explain these terms in a simple uncomplicated way? Doctors do have their method of simplifying things for their patients. The objective of this article is to differentiate two related medical procedures: CT scans and PET scans.

These two procedures are related, but each provides a different perspective on the body part being scanned. With PET scans, you’ll get information on the metabolism of a cell while CT scans provide information on the anatomy of a body part. Oftentimes, images from a CT scan are read alongside images from a PET scan for a clearer interpretation of a medical condition.

Detailed Comparison

Here is additional information for each procedure when compared:

  • Procedure duration. CT scans are relatively quick procedures. It takes a few minutes to be done. On the other hand, PET scans take a lot longer to be finished.
  • Imaging principle used. PET scan images are generated through tracers that emit positrons. These positrons are then tracked by the system.
  • Scope of Imaging. PET scans can accurately show biological processes in the body such as blood circulation. CT scans produce anatomical images such as the skeletal outline inside the body.

With regards to certain medical conditions where each procedure is used, PET scans are widely used in the studying and treating of cancer. Scans of tumours or growths can be studied to determine whether treatment is effective. It’s also helpful in finding cancer recurrence no matter how minute. PET scans are used in neurology such as diagnosing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. PET scans lean more towards detailing certain bodily functions.

In comparison to this, CT scans are used to find out what a certain condition looks like. If you want a clear image of a tumour, for example, to look at the size and orientation of the mass, a CT scan is best used for this purpose. Both of these procedures can be done outside a hospital. In fact, there are many private PET scans in London clinics available with the most advanced scanners in use.

Risks and General Advantages

Both procedures are painless and safe. Nevertheless, exposure to radiation has made some people wary that these procedures may cause certain diseases. It’s also important to keep in mind that with PET scans, there is exposure to radiation due to the ionising agent. As such, the procedure is prohibited for pregnant women.

These risks are worth considering, however, each procedure increases the ability of doctors to diagnose diseases better. When it is necessary, the benefits certainly outweigh the minimal risks associated with each procedure. If you have any concerns about the safety of a PET scan, speak to your doctor in detail about it.


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