PET CT vs CT Scan for Cancer

Why PET CT offers more accurate results

Is a PET/CT or CT Scan Better?

PET/CT scans provide significantly more information than CT scans, and are far more reliable when diagnosing cancer. The reality is that you can’t rely on a CT scan (or ultrasound, MRI, or blood test) to tell you definitively whether or not you have cancer. The combination of positron emission tomography (PET) with computerized tomography (CT) is powerful: with a PET/CT scan, you will know for sure.

  • CT scan:
    • Shows a 3D image of the inside of the body (organs and tissues)
    • Detects abnormalities in the body’s internal anatomy, such as tumours or growths
  • PET scan:
    • Shows biological activity at the molecular level
    • Detects changes in cellular activity before these changes are anatomically visible
    • Differentiates between malignant and benign abnormalities
  • PET/CT scan:
    • Provides everything in a single scan
    • Evaluates your body’s organs and tissues at a molecular level
    • Identifies abnormalities in cells
    • Detects early onset of cancer before it’s visible with other imaging tools

Can a CT Scan Misdiagnose Cancer?

Yes! Numerous studies have shown the efficacy of PET/CT over CT scans. At CTOAM, we frequently see cases where cancer patients have received a false negative or false positive from a CT scan before getting an accurate diagnosis from a PET/CT.

PET-CT Comparison
For example, in this image, the patient was told that they were cancer-free based on the CT scan (left side). When the patient opted to get a private PET/CT scan (right side), the scan identified a tumour that would have otherwise gone untreated.
The image above shows a CT scan. You can see some questionable masses in it, but there is no information to tell us whether or not they are cancerous. This is because the CT scan does not distinguish malignant (alive) from benign (dead) abnormalities.

With this lack of confirmation, you still won’t know if you have cancer. In addition, you might:

  • Experience delays in getting treatment, which can be deadly in the case of cancer
  • Endure harmful and costly treatment when you don’t actually need it
  • Not get any treatment when you actually need

Whereas getting a PET/CT from the get-go avoids any confusion, and ensures you know definitively whether you have cancer and, if so, exactly where it is so you can move forward to getting the best treatment available for your form of cancer.

If you have any questions about PET/CT scans, or want to talk with our cancer specialists about how we can help you access one, please email or call us today.

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