FDG PET Scan for Cancer

If your healthcare provider is concerned you may have cancer, they may have referred you for a comprehensive fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography (PET) scan.

At Valley Radiology, our expert team is adept in reading and interpreting these innovative scans for multiple hospital systems and is here to provide you with the information you need.

Continue reading to learn more about the FDG PET scan below.

What Is an FDG PET Scan?

An FDG PET scan is a standard imaging test used to detect cancer in the body. This scan uses a substance called fluorodeoxyglucose to illuminate areas of abnormal metabolic activity.

Cancer cells are more metabolically active than normal cells, so the FDG uptake on a PET scan appears brighter. FDG illuminates areas with high glucose uptake, which may indicate cancerous tissue.

Combining FDG with PET scan technology produces highly detailed pictures of the body’s structures, allowing healthcare providers to detect, diagnose, stage, and plan effective treatment.

What Is FDG?

Fluorodeoxyglucose F18 (FDG) is a radioactive substance like glucose (sugar) and is the most common type of radiotracer used in cancer care. Cancer cells use more glucose than normal cells to grow and spread.

An F18 FDG PET scan is commonly used to detect several types of cancer. However, PET scans alone cannot definitively diagnose cancer. These scans are part of a comprehensive diagnostic approach and require thorough evaluation and interpretation by an experienced radiologist or oncologist.

Here is a quick overview of the types of cancer FDG can help detect

  • Lymphoma
    A PET scan for lymphoma uses FDG to help healthcare providers detect and stage lymphoma by highlighting areas with increased glucose metabolism.
  • Brain cancer
    A brain PET scan uses FDG to visualize areas of increased glucose uptake, helping healthcare providers pinpoint the tumor’s primary location and assess its metabolic activity (which can affect treatment decisions).
  • Breast cancer
    A PET scan for breast cancer leverages FDG uptake indicators to evaluate the extent of the disease, especially when determining whether the cancer has metastasized.
  • Lung cancer
    PET scans for lung cancer use FDG to identify and categorize lung nodules or masses. It helps healthcare providers distinguish between benign and malignant lesions and stage the cancer to guide treatment.
  • Multiple myeloma
    A multiple myeloma PET scan uses FDG to detect and assess the extent of bone lesions. It also helps healthcare providers evaluate metabolic activity, which helps in disease staging and treatment planning.
  • Ovarian cancer
    A PET scan for ovarian cancer employs FDG to detect and evaluate the spread of the disease and is especially important for detecting whether the cancer has metastasized.
  • Melanoma
    A PET scan for melanoma needs FDG to identify metastases and properly assess the lesion’s metabolic activity. This helps healthcare providers stage the cancer and determine proper treatments and surgical interventions.

FDG PET Scan Procedure: What to Expect

If you’ve been referred for an FDG PET Scan, here is what you can expect:

  • Preparation—Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions on pre-scan preparations, which may involve fasting or abstaining from certain medications.
  • Injection—A small amount of fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) radioactive tracer is injected into a vein, usually in your arm. This tracer is designed to gather in areas of high metabolic activity, like cancer cells.
  • Uptake waiting period—You will then be asked to rest quietly while the tracer circulates throughout your body. This typically takes 30-90 minutes.
  • Scanning—Once the tissues in your body have absorbed the tracer, you will be positioned on a scanning table to capture images. These images provide detailed information about cell and tissue abnormalities (e.g., tumors).
  • Post-scan instructions—Once the scan is complete, you can resume normal activities right away. Your healthcare provider will advise you to drink plenty of water to help flush the radioactive tracer from your body. They may also provide additional post-scan instructions at this time, which will depend on your unique medical circumstances.
  • Results and follow-up—A skilled radiologist will evaluate and interpret your FDG activity PET scan images. A detailed report will be sent to your primary care provider within 24 hours.

If you have any specific questions regarding your FDG PET scan, we encourage you to ask one of our skilled radiologists before the scan begins.

Fluorodeoxyglucose PET Scans

FDG PET scan radiology services offer leading-edge technologies to help healthcare providers more accurately detect and diagnose several types of early-stage cancer, which contributes to better health outcomes.

If your primary care provider has referred you for a comprehensive FDG PET scan—don’t wait. These nuclear medicine imaging scans are essential for the early detection, identification, diagnosis, staging, and treatment planning of several types of cancer.