LHSC improves cancer detection with new PET/CT scanner
October 12, 2022
LONDON, Ont. – Cancer patients in the London region will soon have access to state-of-the-art scanning technology as London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) begins operating its new imaging machine at Victoria Hospital this week. The PET/CT scanner detects cancer in its earliest stages and provides on-site imaging for both adults and children, expecting to reduce wait times for patients.
“It’ll be very important in their care pathway as patients move through their cancer journey in order to give them the best, most effective treatment possible,” said Dr. Jonathan Romsa (pictured), chief of nuclear medicine at LHSC. “As cancer care has become more complex over the years, the demand for PET imaging has really increased exponentially.”
Dr. Romsa told CBC News that the PET/CT machine will be in operation at Victoria Hospital with a goal of scanning 20 to 25 patients per day. The machine can perform more than 6,000 scans per year – with a goal of up to 25 people per day, double what is currently available possible.
This will be London’s second PET/CT scanner operating in the city, with one in operation at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
“As everyone knows, with COVID there’s been a real struggle with wait times. The healthcare system has been under a certain amount of strain as every other sector of society,” he said. “It will greatly impact the wait times and allow our patients access to this type of technology.”
Positron emission tomography (PET) scanning is a type of nuclear medicine imaging that uses a form of radioactive sugar to produce images. The PET/CT scanner can diagnose cancer in its early stages, show how far cancer has spread through the body and monitor the effectiveness of cancer treatments.
The imaging is “much more targeted” and able to detect changes to the body on a molecular level before they would be visible through anatomical imaging, said Dr. Romsa. The machine will also be used to enhance research, education and clinical practice for students, residents and healthcare staff at LHSC, resulting in a “tremendous increase” in research capabilities at the hospital, he said.
Stephen Nelli, LHSC’s coordinator of nuclear medicine, says the new PET/CT scanner has better resolution giving physicians clear images when diagnosing patients and making judgement calls on treatment.
For now, the scanner will be used for cancer care work but could eventually be used for a wide variety of uses, such as cardiology and neurology. “Technology has really improved, and we’re seeing things change right in front of our eyes,” Nelli said. “Over the past 10 years, PET/CT technology has really gained traction, and there’s a lot of new features.”
“The machine will have better resolution, which means the pictures will be clearer. So having those clearer images will help when the physicians are looking at their diagnosis to make better judgment calls on how to treat these people moving forward.”
The machine cost $3.2 million and was funded in part by the London Health Sciences Foundation and Ontario Health. “I know a lot of the staff here are very excited to have this program here and get it up and running for our patients,” he said. “We’re trying to meet the demand the best we can.”