One of the most advanced imaging devices available to detect cancer in its earliest stages rolls into PeaceHealth Southwest beginning next week. The new mobile PET/CT is one of the most talked about medical imaging innovations today.
"PET/CT can detect cancerous tumors when they first occur before any changes in anatomy are visible, or detect recurring tumors when anatomical imaging is unable to distinguish scar tissue from recurrent disease," said Thomas Demlow, MD, medical director, Columbia Imaging Group.
PET/CT combines two imaging systems, positron emission tomography or PET and computer tomography or CT. PET imaging offers physicians a unique view of the body's organs and tissues by showing metabolic changes in the body at a molecular level. This is achieved by injecting patients with a special form of sugar tagged with a low-level of radioactivity, which is drawn to the body's organs.
Southwest's mobile PET/CT will be available at the Medical Center each Tuesday. It will arrive each week inside an 18-wheel semi-truck and trailer and will be situated directly west of the Cancer Center (Radiation Oncology) off 87th Avenue and 5th Street at PeaceHealth Southwest's Medical Center campus.
The use of PET makes sense for cancer patients in particular because cancer cells often have a much higher metabolic rate than surrounding tissues. This accelerated cellular activity stands out on the diagnostic images as a dark spot against lighter, normal tissue. And because abnormal cellular changes can be easily imaged, information from PET can lead to earlier diagnosis of disease or abnormalities.
As useful as PET is for early diagnosis, combining PET with CT imaging offers added benefits for patients and their physicians. Traditionally, PET scans are compared to recent CT or other scans to determine the exact location of a metabolic hotspot. This method can be problematic especially in the head and neck areas where anatomic structures are relatively small and close together. PET/CT simplifies the process by providing a precise overlay of the PET and CT images. By combining two technologies, doctors have a better picture of the problem and can choose the best treatment options, helping patients avoid more invasive examinations or unnecessary surgeries.
Clinical experience shows that the PET/CT image provides valuable information that can be used for early diagnosis, more accurate tumor detection and precise localization, improved biopsy sampling, and better assessment of patient responses to chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
The Cancer Center
The Cancer Center at PeaceHealth Southwest offers a full array of specialty programs focusing on cancer education, prevention, detection, treatment, and support. Cancer prevention and detection efforts include community-screening clinics and computerized risk assessments. In addition, a number of cancer support programs are available to meet the on-going needs of people living with a cancer diagnosis. Of course, it's comforting to know that many treatment options are available at Southwest, including surgery, medical infusion oncology, radiation oncology, and the immunology laboratory. Finally, our patients have access to the latest research and treatments through our formal affiliations with Oregon Health and Science University and the Columbia River Oncology Project.