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Can a PET scan help detect breast cancer spread?

For a PET scan, glucose (a form of sugar) that contains a radioactive atom is injected into the bloodstream. Because cancer cells in the body are growing rapidly, they absorb large amounts of the radioactive sugar. After about an hour, a special camera is used to create a picture of areas of radioactivity in the body.

A PET scan is useful when your doctor thinks the cancer may have spread but doesn't know where. The picture is not finely detailed like a CT or MRI scan, but it provides helpful information about your whole body. Some newer machines are able to do both a PET and CT scan at the same time (PET/CT scan). This allows the radiologist to compare areas of higher radioactivity on the PET with the appearance of that area on the CT.

So far, most studies show it isn't very helpful in most cases of breast cancer, although it may be used when the cancer is known to have spread

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.