Positron emission tomography (PET) is now an important cancer imaging tool, both for diagnosis and staging, as well as offering prognostic information based on response. This report attempts to comprehensively review the value of PET in the locoregional and distant staging of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), illustrate the potential effects on patient management, and give a short overview of newer applications. PET sets the gold standard in the evaluation of an indeterminate solitary pulmonary nodule or mass, where PET has proven to be significantly more accurate than computed tomography (CT) in the distinction between benign and malignant lesions. In the evaluation of metastatic spread to locoregional lymph nodes, PET is significantly more accurate than CT, so that invasive surgical staging may be omitted in many patients with negative mediastinal PET images. In patients with positive mediastinal PET images, invasive surgical staging remains mandatory because of the possibility of false-positive findings due to inflammatory nodes or granulomatous disorders. In the search for metastatic spread, PET is a useful adjunct to conventional imaging. This may be due to the finding of unexpected metastatic lesions or due to exclusion of malignancy in lesions that are equivocal on standard imaging. However, at this time, PET does not replace conventional imaging. Large-scale randomized studies are currently examining whether PET staging will actually improve the appearance of lung cancer outcome.