PET Scan for Prostate Cancer
(Prostate Specific Membrane Antigen Scan; PSMA Scan; Gallium 68 Scan; Choline C-11 Scan; Choline F-18 Scan)
by Krisha McCoy, MS
PET scans use an injection of low-level radioactive material to highlight specific types of tissue in medical images. Different types of radiation may be chosen for different tissue. The radioactive material options for prostate cancer tissue include:
Reasons for Test
The radioactive material above attaches itself to prostate cancer tissue, but passes other tissue in the body. The radioactive material makes prostate cancer tissue visible with a PET scan. Gallium 68 helps find cancer that has spread beyond the prostate. It may be used before treatment begins or to look for new areas after treatment. Choline C-11 or F-18 is used for those who have had prostate cancer treatment, but may be at a high risk for recurrence.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
What to Expect
Prior to test
Before your test:
Description of the Test
The gallium 68 is injected into a vein. It takes about an hour for the material to spread throughout the body. The actual scan take about 30 minutes.
A radioactive form of choline (a B-complex vitamin) is injected into a vein. Prostate cancer cells quickly absorb the choline. The scan is done right away to get the full effect of the radioactivity, which breaks down quickly. The radioactive forms of choline are C-11 or F-18.
You will be able to leave after the test is done. You can resume normal activities.
How Long Will It Take?
Gallium 68—2-3 hours
Choline C-11 or F-18—less than 30 minutes
Will It Hurt?
Your doctor will review the images. The results will be ready in a few days.
Call Your Doctor
Call if you have any questions or concerns. If you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
Prostate Cancer Canada
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Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 10/17/2017
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