If you or someone you care about has ever had to travel to Pueblo or farther for a PET scan, you’ll be happy to know that the technology is now available right here at Prowers Medical Center.
“This is a big blessing to this community,” said Tina Sandoval, a registered nurse and Chief Clinical Officer at Prowers Medical Center.
PET stands for position emission tomography. It’s a type of imaging, similar to CT and MRI, and is used to help clinicians more accurately detect, diagnose, and monitor the effectiveness of treatment for cancer, brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, and some cardiac problems.
PET differs from CT and MRI in that it captures the functioning of cells and tissues, not just static images. Because it can detect metabolic changes very early — sometimes before there is a change in the anatomy — it allows healthcare providers to find disease in the very early stages, sooner than any other technique.
Prowers’ new scanner, on-site two days a month in partnership with Front Range Mobile Imaging, is a PET/CT scanner. This state-of-the-art machine does both PET and CT scanning in one imaging session, combining the fine structural detail of CT images with PET’s ability to detect changes in cell function.
About 45 minutes before a PET/CT scan, patients receive an injection of a glucose solution that contains a small amount of radioactive material. Then, once the injection has had time to do its job, they lie on a bed that slides into the scanner. The technology is able to “see” and capture images of the glucose as it moves through the body.
Cancer cells often use more glucose than normal cells, so they show up on the PET scan. Even very tiny cancerous areas — spots that might be missed by other types of imaging — are made visible by this technology. For cancer, PET/CT scans are taken initially to aid in diagnosis and staging and occasionally throughout treatment, to determine progress in ridding the body of cancer and helping providers decide if the treatment plan should be adjusted.
“It’s a big deal,” Sandoval said. “Most hospitals don’t have a PET scanner. It’s especially helpful for local cancer patients because they may feel sick from treatment, and traveling 100 miles just to have a quick test is awful when you’re not feeling well.”
PET/CT scans must be ordered by a healthcare provider. Because the scans are often used widely in the treatment of cancer, Sandoval expects the new equipment will be put to good use by oncologist Robert Hoyer, MD, who sees cancer patients at Prowers Medical Center.
Sandoval says that besides the injection poke, the noninvasive procedure is painless and usually takes just half an hour.
“PET/CT imaging involves only 30 minutes of imaging time for most patients and yields whole-body information from a single radiopharmaceutical injection,” Sandoval said. “In essence, PET/CT helps to maximize the quality of patient care.”
For more information on PET/CT scans, call Prowers Medical Center Imaging Department at 719-336-7042.