PET/CT scans: Frequently asked questions

Positron emission tomography (PET) scans are frequently used to evaluate the internal organs and tissues for the presence of cancer or other health conditions. In many cases, PET scans are combined with computed tomography (CT) to generate special views that enable the doctor to connect information from both scans in one image for more detailed and precise information. At Southern Arizona Radiology Associates, patients in Tucson and Sierra Vista, Arizona, have access to the latest imaging technologies and an expert team of radiologists who are here to help guide you through the PET/CT scan process and answer FAQs.

What to expect during a PET/CT scan?

When you schedule your PET/CT scan, we will give you any information you need to prepare for your scan in advance, such as avoiding eating for a certain length of time before your appointment.

The scanning process typically takes around two hours from start to finish. First, we will perform a nearly painless intravenous injection of a tracer containing a small amount of radioactive material that is picked up by the PET/CT scan. After the injection, you are free to rest comfortably, catch up on emails, or read a good book while you wait for 30 to 60 minutes in a reclining chair. This allows the tracer to be absorbed throughout your body.

To perform the scan, you will lay down on a padded table that slides into the scanner. It is important to remain very still during the scan so that the images do not become blurred or distorted. The imaging process is painless. While the scanner is working, it will make clicking and buzzing sounds.

Can I return to my normal day afterward?

Yes, you are free to resume normal daily activities immediately after the test. We recommend drinking a lot of water to flush away the tracer.

Small spaces make me anxious. Can I be given a sedative beforehand?

If you are concerned about anxiety during your scan, please speak with your physician beforehand.

Can I take medications before my appointment?

Yes, you may continue taking your regular medications as long as you are able to take them on an empty stomach since fasting is typically required prior to the exam.

How do I schedule my appointment?

If your doctor has placed an order for a PET/CT scan for you, call Southern Arizona Radiology Associates at (520) 335-6849, and we will help schedule your appointment. We have locations in both Tucson and Sierra Vista for your convenience.