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 TOP
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.
Possible Complications TOP
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
What to Expect TOP
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.
After Test TOP
You will be able to leave after the test is done. You can resume normal activities.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
Gallium 68—2-3 hours
Choline C-11 or F-18—less than 30 minutes
Will It Hurt? TOP
Your doctor will review the images. The results will be ready in a few days.
Call Your Doctor TOP
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
Kohlfürst S, Malle P, Igerc I, Gallowitsch HJ, Lind P. The role of F-18 choline PET and PET/CT in prostate cancer. Imaging Decisions MRI. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 10, 2017.
Manyak M. Indium-111 capromab pendetide in the management of recurrent prostate cancer. Expert Rev Anticancer Ther. 2008;8(2):175-181.
Murphy RC, Kawashima A, Peller PJ. The utility of 11C-choline PET/CT for imaging prostate cancer: a pictorial guide. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2011;196(6):1390-1398.
PET/CT. PRP Diagonistic Imaging website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 17, 2017.
Prostate cancer screening and imaging. DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated August 23, 2017. Accessed October 17, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 10/17/2017
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.