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This scan can show if prostate cancer has spread to your bones. Before the scan, a tiny amount of radioactive dye is injected into a vein. The dye collects in areas of abnormal bone growth. You will need to wait for a few hours while the substance moves through your bloodstream to your bones. Your body will be scanned with a machine that detects the dye. A larger amount of dye will usually show up in any areas of bone with cancer cells. The scan is painless and the radioactive substance passes from your body in a few hours.
A CT (computerised tomography) scan uses x-rays to create detailed pictures of the inside of the body. A CT scan of the abdomen can show whether cancer has spread to lymph nodes in that area. A dye is injected into a vein to help make the scan pictures clearer. You will lie still on a table that moves slowly through the CT scanner, which is large and round like a doughnut. The scan itself takes a few minutes and is painless, but the preparation takes 10–30 minutes.
A PET (positron emission tomography) scan combined with a CT scan is a specialised imaging test. A PET–CT scan may help detect cancer that has spread or come back. For prostate cancer, the scan usually looks for a substance produced by prostate cancer cells called prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA). Before the scan you will be injected with a small amount of a radioactive solution that makes PSMA show up on the scan. From 1 July 2022, PSMA PET–CT scans have been approved for Medicare rebates in certain circumstances for prostate cancer, but sometimes you will still have to pay the full amount. Ask your doctor or imaging centre what you will have to pay.
Before having scans, tell the doctor if you have any allergies or have had a reaction to contrast (dye) during previous scans. You should also let them know if you have diabetes or kidney disease.
Podcast: Tests and Cancer
A/Prof Ian Vela, Urologic Oncologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Queensland University of Technology, and Urocology, QLD; A/Prof Arun Azad, Medical Oncologist, Urological Cancers, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Nicholas Brook, Consultant Urological Surgeon, Royal Adelaide Hospital and A/Prof Surgery, The University of Adelaide, SA; Peter Greaves, Consumer; Graham Henry, Consumer; Clin Prof Nat Lenzo, Nuclear Physician and Specialist in Internal Medicine, Group Clinical Director, GenesisCare Theranostics, and Notre Dame University Australia, WA; Henry McGregor, Men’s Health Physiotherapist, Adelaide Men’s Health Physio, SA; Jessica Medd, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Department of Urology, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW; Dr Tom Shakespeare, Director, Radiation Oncology, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Lismore Public Hospitals, NSW; A/Prof David Smith, Senior Research Fellow, Daffodil Centre, Cancer Council NSW; Allison Turner, Prostate Cancer Specialist Nurse (PCFA), Canberra Region Cancer Centre, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Maria Veale, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council QLD; Michael Walkden, Consumer; Prof Scott Williams, Radiation Oncology Lead, Urology Tumour Stream, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and Professor of Oncology, Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, The University of Melbourne, VIC.
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