How PET Scans Create Cancer Survivors

By Michael A. Smith, MD

A Positron Emission Tomography, or PET scan, utilizes your cells’ metabolic pathways to image areas in your body that are either over or underactive — often signifying disease. This ability to highlight a cell’s metabolism is known as a “functional” test.

As it turns out, with a rich supply of functional data on cellular metabolism, PET scans have tremendous potential in helping people beat cancer. One of the leading experts in PET scanning is Dr. Richard Black, director of Nuclear Medicine for one of the largest radiology groups in the United States.

Dr. Black points out that, “A PET scan report should tell doctors (and their patients) what they really want and need to know to facilitate and optimize individual patient management. Most importantly, a PET scan should be able to change and assist how a clinician manages a cancer patient.”

Cancer Cells are Hyperactive

Cancer cells are metabolically hyperactive, dividing and growing very rapidly. This rapid growth requires a lot of energy — energy that’s mostly supplied by glucose. Cancer cells will take up a lot of glucose at a fast rate from the environment surrounding them. The glucose is then converted to energy by the cell.

A PET scan takes advantage of the hyperactive state of a cancer cell. The test starts by injecting the patient with FDG or fluorodeoxyglucose. FDG consists of a molecule of glucose chemically linked to a radioisotope of fluorine. Like regular glucose, FDG is taken up by your cells. But because cancer cells are more active than surrounding cells, they take up FDG at a greater rate than normal cells.1-3

The fluorescence from FDG is captured by the PET scanner, creating an image of the cancer which is then displayed on a monitor. This image can provide the doctor with a tremendous amount of information — information that can better stage the cancer and help to develop the best possible treatment regimen.

PET Scans Outperform Other Tests

PET scans can correctly and successfully change patient management in an average of 30%–38% of cases compared to conventional imaging techniques that include CT, MRI and X-rays.4 Ultimately, PET scans can have a huge impact on the patient’s prognosis and outcome following treatment.

PET scans accomplish four things:5

  • Differentiation between benign and malignant growths
  • Establishing the stage of the cancer
  • Monitoring the response to therapy
  • Detecting cancer reoccurrence
PET scans do expose patients to ionizing radiation, though efforts are made to limit the dose. In reality, most experts agree that the benefits of a PET scan outweigh the risks.

Protecting Yourself from PET Scan Radiation

Here’s our list of nutrients that can protect you from radiation exposure.

  • R-lipoic acid – 300 mg a day
  • Beta-carotene – 25,000 IU or 75 mg daily
  • CoQ10 – 100 to 400 mg a day
  • Siberian ginseng – 1000 mg daily
  • Green tea extract – 725 mg three times a day
  • N-acetylcysteine – 200 to 600 mg daily
  • MSM – 1000 mg daily
  • Selenium – 200 to 1000 mcg a day
  • Silymarin (Milk Thistle) – 150 to 600 mg daily
  • Pure Honey – 20 ml 15 minutes before and after radiation exposure
For more details on PET scans and the nutrients listed above, we suggest speaking with one of our health advisors. They can be reached (for free) at 1-800-226-2370.

In summary, we strongly suggest talking to your doctor about utilizing a PET scan if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer. Although not perfect, a PET scan can impact prognosis greatly and offer you the best chance for beating cancer and becoming a survivor.


  1. Nucl Med Biol. 2000 Oct;27(7):643-6.
  2. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1977 Sep;74(9):3735-9.
  3. Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2008 Apr;8(3):305-12.
  4. J Nucl Med. 2001 May;42(5 Suppl):1S-93S.
  5. Oncology. 2007;72 Suppl 1:104-10.


Anonymous said...

I worry about the glucose injection you get to make the cancer show up....isn't that just feeding the cancer and helping it spread??

Anonymous said...

To suggest consuming honey 15 minutes before radiation exposure (PET scan) is a completely irresponsible statement. Doing so will render a completely invalid test. I know, I've had 3 PET scans myself, am a throat cancer survivor, and an oncology nurse. Patients are required to not consume anything by mouth for 6 hours prior to the test. And to answer the glucose question.Your body's primary source of fuel is glucose, you are constantly converting stored sources of energy into glucose in order to function. GLUCOSE DOES NOT CAUSE CANCER AND DOES NOT CAUSE CANCER TO SPREAD! If you got rid of 100% of your body fat (impossible) and 100% of your glycogen stores (also impossible) your body would find a way to convert your muscle into glucose .

Life Extension said...

Hi Anonymous. Thanks for your comments. The list of nutrients, including honey, have all been shown to be radio-protective. We are just providing the information -- information that conventional medicine knows nothing about. Whether or not patients use any of the nutrients should be based on the type of radiological procedure and ultimately should be a decision made between them and their doctors. And as far as the glucose-cancer debate, the PET scan itself is based on a heighten uptake of sugar by cancer cells, compared to surrounding healthy tissue. Although this does not conclusively link high blood sugar to metastasis, it seems to point in that direction.

michael tom said...

There are some attention-grabbing cut-off dates on this article but I don’t know if I see all of them middle to heart. There’s some validity however I’ll take hold opinion till I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we would like more! Added to FeedBurner as nicely

niche service said...

Now that’s what I call a tremendous blog. Beautifully written.
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