PET scan guide: definition & walk-in PET scan centers

If you're searching for a walk-in PET scan center, can help you connect with the best nuclear medicine providers in your area - on your terms. Use’s directory of trustworthy centers to find PET scans and other types of medical imaging scans near you, from the comfort of your device. Learn more about PET scans, their safety, and how to find a PET scan center below.

What is a PET scan?

A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is a type of nuclear imaging scan. PET scans use radioactive material, cameras, and computers to perform scans and evaluate how well certain organs and tissues in your body function.

PET machines look similar to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines or computed tomography (CT) machines. They are usually large, donut-shaped machines with a tunnel running through the center. You will typically lie on a table that enters this tunnel during your scan.

Radiologists may sometimes combine PET scans with other medical imaging scans, like CT scans or MRI scans. Combined PET/CT or PET/MRI scans may help doctors collect images that are more specific to a particular area of the body than those produced by one single scan, and diagnose and treat more specific or hard-to-identify conditions.

How does a PET scan work?

To perform a PET scan, radiologists give you a small amount of a radioactive substance, also called a tracer, which your body’s tissues and organs absorb. It takes this tracer about 30 to 60 minutes to absorb fully. You typically will lie on an exam table during your scan while your radiologist takes images. Radioactive tracers, when absorbed into the body’s organs and tissues, allow PET scan machines to highlight how well these structures and systems, such as your metabolism, are functioning.

Cancer cells may absorb more of a tracer than less inflamed or less metabolically active areas of your body. By highlighting how your body’s tissues and organs absorb the tracer, PET scans help doctors diagnose a variety of health conditions and diseases.

PET scans, along with all nuclear imaging scans, are non-invasive procedures. However, your radiologist may administer your radioactive tracer as an injection, or ask you to inhale or swallow it.

What can a PET scan detect?

PET scans are ideal in identifying many forms of cancer, diseases, and irregularities in body function. This is because the tracers administered in PET scans can collect in tumors and other places of the body that are inflamed. PET scans can sometimes detect certain cancers more quickly than other types of scans. 

Additionally, PET scans help doctors:

  • Determine organ function and health.
  • Determine bodily system functions and health.
  • Measure how much a type of cancer has spread throughout your body.
  • Develop a prognosis (or outlook) for your condition.
  • Measure the effectiveness of treatment.
  • Evaluate brain disorders, including seizures or tumors.
  • Map normal heart or brain function.

How much does a PET scan cost?

The cost of a PET scan depends on multiple factors, including the part of your body you’re scanning, your location, if you are using insurance benefits to pay for your PET scan, and much more. To confirm the cost of a PET scan, reach out to your PET scan provider directly.

PET scan safety & risks

Before getting your PET scan, be sure to give your doctor a thorough medical history and let them know whether you suffer from any medical conditions or are pregnant. You may also wish to tell your doctor whether you have any surgical implants.

PET scans use small amounts of radioactive material to produce clear images of certain structures and systems of the body. Radioactive material (in high doses) may cause cancer, but the low-dose amount of radioactive material needed to perform PET scans and other nuclear tests is generally safe in these small amounts.

How to find a PET scan center near you

There are multiple ways to find and book PET scans near you. For example, if you want to save time, you can use to easily search for PET scan providers and radiologists in your area that offer PET scans.

You can find a PET scan center near you by using’s scan search tool. With, you can find the perfect medical imaging center for your particular needs.




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Yes, you can receive a PET scan if you do not have health insurance, or if your health insurance does not cover your PET scan. This financial option is sometimes referred to as “private pay."

Yes, some PET scan centers will allow you to book and receive your PET scan on the same day. However, whether you are able to book and receive a PET scan on the same day you call to book it will depend on your PET scan center’s schedule, as well as other factors. It is often easier for radiology centers to book your PET scan days or weeks in advance.

PET scans may take anywhere from a few minutes to up to 30 minutes, depending on your particular needs. (This is not including the time that it takes for your tracer to absorb into your body).

Before receiving an PET scan, make sure to tell your physician if you have any implants. Also be sure to let them know whether or not you have any medical conditions or are pregnant. If a PET scan isn’t right for you or your situation, you can talk to your physician about possible alternative scans.

Body parts that a PET can scan