Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

Lowell General Hospital, in partnership with New England PET of Greater Lowell offers state-of-the art PET/CT technology at The Cancer Center.

The facility is open Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm. Please call (978) 458-9872 for more information or to schedule a PET/CT scan.


PET (Positron Emission Tomography) is the most advanced cancer imaging test available, allowing cancer to be detected more quickly and accurately, often without the need for additional imaging or invasive procedures. For example, a PET scan can determine if a lesion or tumor is benign or malignant. In many cases, this can be determined without a biopsy or the removal of the organ or tissue. PET can define the full extent of cancer at the time of diagnosis, guiding physicians in the optimal use of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy treatment.

PET is used for the diagnosis and management of several forms of cancer including:

  • Lung Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Esophageal Cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Lymphoma
  • Head and Neck Cancer
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Thyroid Cancer
  • PET is also used in Alzheimer’s Disease, refractory seizures, and cardiac studies.


PET/CT combines in one single study the functional information of PET with the anatomical information provided by a CT scan. This PET/CT information will enable your physician to pinpoint the exact location of interest and helps in making an accurate diagnosis.

What the PET/CT Scan Can Detect

PET/CT can track the progress of the disease and how the body is responding to treatment, allowing physicians to seek alternative therapies for those patients who are not responding to treatment. PET/CT scans detect recurrence of cancer long before other imaging tests would reveal it, giving physicians an early indication when additional treatment is needed.

In addition to its advances in cancer detection, PET/CT is used for early detection of heart and neurological diseases. PET/CT is the most accurate test to reveal whether heart tissue is alive and will benefit from a bypass surgery. PET/CT can also detect and define brain disorders, including Alzheimer's and seizure disorders.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) FAQs

You will need to allow 2-3 hours for the completion of the PET/CT scan. Prior to the procedure, a small amount of a radioactive "tracer" is injected into the bloodstream. Then, you can relax in a quiet room for up to 90 minutes to allow the tracer to circulate through your body. At that point, you lay on a table that passes slowly through the PET/CT scanner, which looks much like a typical CT scanner. The scanner creates an image of your body and metabolic process within organs and organ systems and takes 20 to 30 minutes.

Fasting for four hours prior to the scan is necessary. Water is allowed, but other liquids or foods are not—not even chewing gum or cough drops. All metal will need to be removed for scanning including clothing with zippers, jewelry, and underwire bras. The scan room may seem cold, so it is recommended to dress simply and warmly with elastic-waist clothing. If you are a diabetic who is insulin dependent, you will need to check with our office staff for specific instructions. Likewise, if you are a chemotherapy or radiation therapy patient, we will need to discuss your appointment date with you.

The images from the PET/CT study will be interpreted by a physician with special training in PET/CT. The PET/CT report will be sent to your referring doctor as soon as it is available—usually within 24 hours of the exam. Your doctor will then discuss the results with you.

You have no restrictions after a PET/CT scan and can go about your normal activities. To help eliminate the FDG tracer from your body, drink plenty of fluids. Because you will have fasted for four hours, you should eat something right after the scan.

New England PET’s office staff are well versed in insurance guidelines and will work to get any required approvals.

Prior to the exam, New England PET will need your complete medical insurance coverage information. You must be sure to bring your medical insurance card(s) and all other pertinent insurance coverage information to your exam.


Keeping You Connected!

There are a number of ways to stay up to date with Lowell General Hospital. Learn more about the latest health topics from our medical experts, participate in a class or a support group, review current hospital news, and take advantage of our many resources.