Cancer detection is going to be faster with the new PET/CT scanner at LHSC TT News

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Cancer patients in the region will soon have access to state-of-the-art scanning technology as London Health Sciences Center (LHSC) starts operating its new imaging machine at Victoria Hospital next week.

The PET/CT scanner detects cancer in its early stages and provides on-site imaging for both adults and children, hoping to reduce wait times for patients.

“This will be very important in their care pathway as patients move through their cancer journey to provide them with the best, most effective treatment,” said Jonathan Romsa, chief of nuclear medicine at LHSC.

“As cancer care has become more complex over the years, the demand for PET imaging has grown really rapidly.”

A man in a suit stands next to a large white circular machine
Jonathan Romsa, LHSC’s head of nuclear medicine, says the PET/CT machine will be up and running at Victoria Hospital next week – with the goal of scanning 20 to 25 patients per day. (Michelle Both/CBC)

The machine can perform more than 6,000 scans per year — double what is currently available, with a goal of up to 25 people per day, Romsa said. It will be London’s second PET/CT scanner operating in the city, with one operating at St Joseph’s Hospital.

“As everyone knows, there has been a real struggle with waiting times with Covid. The healthcare system, like every other sector of society, is under a certain amount of pressure,” he said. “This will greatly impact wait times and allow our patients access to this type of technology.”

Technology is more targeted

Positron emission tomography (PET) scanning is a type of nuclear medicine imaging that uses a form of radioactive sugar to create images.

A PET/CT scanner can detect cancer in its early stages, show how far the cancer has spread in the body and monitor the effectiveness of cancer treatments.

The imaging is “highly targeted” and is able to detect changes in the body at the molecular level before they are visible through anatomical imaging, Romsa said.

The machine will also be used to enhance research, education and clinical practice for students, residents and healthcare staff at LHSC, resulting in a “dramatic increase” in research capabilities at the hospital.

A man in a blue jacket and brown pants stands behind the machine
Stephen Nellie, LHSC’s coordinator of nuclear medicine, says the new PET/CT scanner has better resolution, giving doctors clearer images when examining patients and making judgment calls about treatment. (Michelle Both/CBC)

For now, the scanner will be used for cancer care work but eventually it could be used for a variety of areas such as cardiology and neurology, said Stephen Nellie, coordinator of nuclear medicine at LHSC.

“Technology has really improved, and we’re seeing things change before our eyes,” Nellie said. “Over the past 10 years, PET/CT technology has really gained traction, and there are many new features.”

“The machine will have better resolution, which means the images will be clearer. So having those clearer images will help when doctors are looking at their diagnoses so how to treat people going forward.”

The machine cost $3.2 million and was funded by the London Health Sciences Foundation and Ontario Health.

“I know a lot of the staff here are very excited about having this program here and getting it up and running for our patients,” he said. “We’re trying to meet the demand as best we can.”

London Regional Cancer Programme
The new imaging machine is expected to reduce waiting times for cancer patients in the region with the capacity to perform more than 6,000 scans per year. (Michelle Both/CBC)

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