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Cancer Awareness Month: High Definition PET and CT Scanning

April 6, 2012

By Ashley Hall

MEDFORD, Ore. — April is Cancer Awareness Month. So all month, NewsWatch 12 will bring you the latest advancements in cancer diagnosis, treatment, and care.

We begin with a look at one of the most essential diagnostic tools physicians use to identify the presence and severity of cancers, a tool that’s now even more advanced: High Definition PET and CT scanning.

When a Southern Oregon patient is diagnosed with cancer, or probable cancer, their next step is usually Oregon Advanced Imaging in Medford. In the past few months, this high tech lab has become even more advanced, by offering state-of-the art high definition pet scans.

“We used to be able to see tumors that were a centimeter…now we can see them when they’re just 2 millimeters,” Radiologist Dr. Brian Tryon.

Pet imaging, or positron emission tomography – has become an essential diagnostic tool to reveal the presence and severity of cancers.

“By just looking at the anatomy, it doesn’t look like a tumor,” explains Dr. Tryon, “So if you just had a routine CT scan, which could be easily missed. By PET imaging, it’s very metabolically active. It’s a metastatic node, until proven otherwise.”
The process starts with a patient being injected with a type of radioactive sugar – or glucose – that glows when it interacts with active tissue. Then, they are scanned.

“They’ll come up, go in and I’ll put my parameters on what I’m imaging, from the head to the middle of the thigh normally, and then they’ll come back out, I’ll tell them to breath shallow,” explains Chris Figueroa, with Certified Nuclear Medicine Technology, “It’ll minimize motion. It gets better pictures that way. They’ll move in over the course of 45 seconds of so for the CT side of things.”
Then, the PET scanning takes about 25 minutes; radiologists say it accomplishes 5 goals.

“First, is to distinguish benign from malignant disease,” Dr. Tryon says, “The next is the extent of the malignant disease, and then you want to detect recurrent from residual tumor.”

The PET-CT HD scan also helps map out a treatment plan, but with all the benefits of this PET CT HD scan, there are some drawbacks.
“The tests are not inexpensive, uses a precise instrument, which is expense, a lot of professionals, which increases the cost,” says Dr. Tryon, “So you don’t want to use it in a frivolous way.”

Meaning – until you have a cancer diagnosis, you probably don’t want to pay for the PET-CT HD scan. There’s also the issue of radiology exposure.

“Even though there is a radiation exposure, the benefits far outweigh the risk of having the exposure to radiation over time,” Dr. Tryon states “early detection and better understating of the spread of disease.”