PET/CT has saved lives and improved the quality of life for cancer patients throughout Northwestern Ontario, especially for patients with lung cancer and lymphoma. In many cases, PET/CT imaging represented a less invasive method of diagnosing and monitoring treatments. The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre was one of the first hospitals in Ontario to get this technology – but that was 11 years ago.
“Our current PET/CT scanner was installed in 2008, so it’s nearing end of life,” said Sandra Willson, Manager in Diagnostic Imaging. “That’s why we need to upgrade our PET/CT scanner right now for our patients.”
PET/CT imaging allows doctors to pinpoint cancer like never before. It combines two general types of imaging: nuclear and X-ray. The positron-emission tomography (PET) imaging represents nuclear imaging, which “lights up” cancer cells where they are present. Computed tomography (CT) imaging allows doctors to see exactly where in the body those lit-up areas are located.
The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is currently working on a plan to replace its ageing unit. However, it won’t be just a replacement. The new scanner has advanced technology that will provide clearer pictures – and get those pictures faster – for better outcomes and better patient care.
Perhaps the most exciting news to report is that the new PET/CT scanner may be used for other diseases besides cancer, such as cardiac disease. PET/CT can give heart surgeons a 3D image of your heart – an important tool as our cardiovascular surgery program grows. It will make planning surgeries easier and ultimately lead to better results.
“Surgeons could request a viability scan to see whether surgery is a good option for the patient, and how much surgery – maybe the patient needs only two bypasses instead of four, for example,” Dr. Jonathon Boekhund, Clinical Lead for Nuclear Medicine & Molecular Imaging at the Hospital.
This will also help surgeons treat more patients in Thunder Bay. Patients who require this type of scan would have to be sent to another centre instead. “It’s all about closer-to-home care,” Willson said.
“We expect that we’ll have quite an expansion to the current program that we have. We won’t be just reaching oncology patients, but patients with a wider range of conditions,” Willson added. “It’s happening already. Over the last five years, we’ve seen the number of uses for PET/CT double.”
With faster imaging, clearer pictures, and ultimately better results for more and more patients, the new PET/CT scanner sounds like an obvious upgrade. However, funding is needed to bring this remarkable imaging technology here to Thunder Bay.
You can help! Make your donation online at healthsciencesfoundation.ca/PET or call our Donation Centre at (807) 345-4673. We’ll make sure your gift goes directly to funding our new PET/CT scanner and better care for patients here in Northwestern Ontario.