PET Imaging

Researchers use a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner to view activity inside the body at the molecular and cellular level. A PET scan shows the biologic processes, such as metabolism, oxygen use or blood flow, taking place inside an organ or tumor.

The radioactive tracer produced by the cyclotron is injected into the body and travels to specifically targeted organs. 

  • The PET scanner detects the gamma rays that are created by positrons, which are small particles created when the radioisotope decays.
  • The PET scanner produces a series of 3D images that show the inner workings of the targeted organ.
  • Cells that are most active in the target tissue, such as cancer cells which tend to grow faster than normal cells, absorb more of the radiotracer. This creates “hot spots” that show up on the PET scan.
  • PET scans can be used to help researchers:
  • Differentiate between cancerous and non-cancerous lumps
  • Locate, diagnose and stage cancers, often much earlier than other diagnostic methods can spot a cancer
  • Understand the causes of cancer
  • See if the cancer has spread or recurred
  • Determine the most effective course of treatment or medication based on the specific responses of the tumor

Learn more about Stony Brook's Advanced Imaging Department.