TAHLEQUAH — Tahlequah City Hospital has broadened its fight against cancer by offering advanced scans for the detection and treatment of cancer on its new PET/CT.
This imaging technology fuses two diagnostic tools — PET scans and CT scans — so radiologists can detect minute fluctuations in the body’s metabolism caused by the growth of abnormal cells, while at the same time pinpoint the exact size, shape and location of the tumor, according to a media release.
The 3-D images, which radiologists can rotate and manipulate on computer screens, can detect whether the cancer is spreading; whether treatment is working; and distinguish between benign and cancerous tumors, thus eliminating the need for unnecessary tests in the future.
This information helps doctors make better decisions on whether surgery is necessary, or whether chemotherapy or radiation therapy are more viable options, the release said.
“By merging anatomic and physiological data into one test, we are able to determine the extent of a tumor and its location in the body,” oncologist Daniel Murphy, the director of Radiation Oncology for Northeast Oklahoma Cancer Center, which is located in Tahlequah City Hospital, said in the media release.
“For most patients, it all begins with preparation instructions from their doctor, which include fasting and staying well-hydrated on the day of the test.”
The patient is then injected with a form of glucose (sugar), which is what helps radiologists see areas of the body and cells that are using unusually high amounts of sugar. Abnormal cells tend to replicate faster and use more sugar.
Then, the patient is asked to sit still for 45 minutes to an hour to allow the glucose to circulate through the body.
Once this is done, the patient is scanned by the PET/CT device — first for a CT scan, which takes 15 to 20 seconds; then for a PET scan, which takes closer to an hour.
Once the scan is complete, the images are sent to the radiologist to be read. The radiologist looks for areas where glucose is being used, which shows up in a bright white color in the areas of the brain, heart, muscles — and tumors.
TCH began offering radiation oncology to patients in northeast Oklahoma in 2008 and chemotherapy in 2009. Patients are now able to receive comprehensive cancer treatment close to home.
“There are a lot of people in Tahlequah and the surrounding areas who require cancer management,” Murphy said. “Previously, they would have to go to Tulsa, Arkansas or Muskogee for care. When you require treatment for six to seven weeks, this can become quite a distance.”