BC Cancer opened its third publicly funded PET/CT scanner, and first outside Vancouver, in Victoria on July 22, 2019. The opening marked the beginning of the provincial PET/CT expansion plan which supports current and future patients in the region access an enhanced component of cancer care. Prior to opening, nearly 1,900 Island residents had to travel to Vancouver to receive their scans. Helen is a Vancouver Island resident who received one of those scans.
“I am so grateful that I did not have to travel to Vancouver to receive my PET scan,” says Helen. “Traveling when you are ill is difficult and more so amid the current COVID pandemic. Just thinking about going to Vancouver made me anxious and nauseous. The technologists in Victoria are fantastic – calm and friendly. I felt so comfortable that I fell asleep before my scan time!”
Since opening, 2,200 patients have received their PET/CT scan at BC Cancer - Victoria. Scanning capacity increased earlier this year after Helijet was approved to transport the radioactive tracer (FDG), which is produced at a special facility in Vancouver, needed to complete the scans. Because of faster transport, the PET/CT unit can scan up to 16 people per day – approximately 20 more per week than if the unit was sent by ground transport.
“Having the PET/CT scanner in Victoria is a huge ‘health care win’ for the Vancouver Island community,” says Jenn Forer, chief PET/CT technologist for BC Cancer – Victoria. “Every week we hear about the improvement this scanner has made in the lives of our patients and their support systems. Many had to travel long distances, brave stressful traffic, or even stay overnight in Vancouver to have their PET/CT scan. You can sense the relief they feel now that their many appointments can be completed in a single visit.”
A PET/CT scanner combines two different types of scans in one. It provides information on organ and tissue function (PET) and anatomical structure (CT), which means it can uncover the full extent of disease, aid in the accurate planning of radiation therapy, and determine the effectiveness of treatment by helping clinicians assess whether tumours have shrunk, grown, or spread to other parts of the body or have been eliminated.
The BC Cancer Foundation helped raise funds for the new scanner with support from over 3,500 Vancouver Island donors including Nanaimo resident and former patient Gordon Heys and long-standing supporter Thrifty Foods.
To learn more about the PET/CT program, please visit the BC Cancer Functional Imaging page.