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PET scans break new ground in early detection of cancer, heart conditions


PET scans illuminate the path to better diagnosis and treatment. [Standard, File]

A nuclear medicine technique that measures the metabolic activity of cells in body tissues has been making strides in the battle against cancer.

Positron emission tomography, commonly known as PET, is increasingly being used by specialists to detect and evaluate cancer, contributing to more effective treatment strategies.

Dr. Lalit Varadpande, a Medical Oncologist at The Nairobi West Hospital, describes PET as a “crucial tool in the arsenal against cancer.”

“It allows us to see the unseen, providing a detailed picture of cellular function that can be pivotal in diagnosis and treatment."

Varadpande says PET scans are not limited to oncology.

They play a significant role in cardiology, assessing heart health by identifying blood flow issues, heart damage, and abnormal substance accumulation.

"In cardiology, PET scans offer a non-invasive way to diagnose and monitor heart conditions, which can be life-saving," explains Dr. Varadpande.

 The process involves a radiotracer, typically a form of radioactive sugar, which cancer cells absorb due to their more rapid growth.

This uptake, he says, is visible on the PET scan, highlighting areas of concern.

 "The bright spots on a PET scan are like beacons, guiding us to where the body is fighting the hardest," says Dr. Varadpande.

Preparing for a PET scan is straightforward, requiring patients to fast for six hours and disclose any medications or allergies.

The scan itself is a simple procedure, with the patient remaining still throughout. Following the scan, patients can expect to return home without experiencing any side effects, with results typically available within 24-48 hours.

While there is a slight risk of radiation exposure, Dr. Varadpande observed, it is minimal and comparable to other routine imaging tests.

 NHIF and various private insurance plans now cover PET scans, ensuring that more patients have access to this vital diagnostic tool.

"This inclusion in insurance coverage is a game-changer, making PET scans more accessible, and affordable," he says.

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