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:

  • Gallium 68
  • Choline C-11 or F-18
Prostate Cancer
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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.

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Changes in the levels of bilirubin (a waste product) in the blood
  • Elevated liver enzymes
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Allergic reaction to radioactive material

What to Expect

Prior to test

Before your test:

  • Follow your doctor's instructions about fasting before the test.
  • The doctor may recommend a laxative or enema the night before to clean out the bowel.
  • A catheter may be used to empty the bladder just before surgery.

Description of the Test

Gallium 68:

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.

Choline C-11/F-18:

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

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.

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