Frequently asked questions
1. What is a cyclotron?
A cyclotron is a particle accelerator that produces the radioactive component of the tracer used in PET/CT imaging. It produces a particle beam which focuses on a specifically chosen target substance (most often Oxygen-18 enriched water). The reaction between the particle beam and the enriched water creates the radionuclide F-18 which is then run through a sophisticated chemistry module to produce a radioactive tracer, such as Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG). FDG is typically used to scan clinical oncology patients to help guide cancer therapy or surgical decision-making.
2. What is PET/CT?
PET stands for Positron Emission Tomography. It is a non-invasive, whole-body imaging procedure that, when combined with Computed Tomography (CT), allows physicians to more accurately diagnose and manage disease, particularly cancer.
3. What is the benefit of PET/CT?
PET/CT benefits both patients and health care professionals. It is a single test that is highly effective at showing the presence and progress of disease and how well the patient is responding to treatment. It provides health care professionals with a tool to better diagnose disease and enhance/tailor treatment planning to ensure the most effective therapy is chosen.
4. What is the importance of the cyclotron and radiopharmacy facility?
A cyclotron is a particle accelerator that produces the radioactive component of the tracer. The radiopharmacy lab is responsible for compounding the radioactive component to a carrier to ultimately produce an injectable radiopharmaceutical that can trace certain biological pathways in the body. The cyclotron and radiopharmacy need to be in close proximity to the imaging center (PET/CT scanners) due to the relatively short half-lives of the radiotracers.
5. Is it safe to inject someone with a radioactive material?
FDG, the radiotracer most commonly used in PET/CT scanning, has been tested and safely used in literally millions of scans globally. It has a short half-life, meaning it is eliminated very quickly from the body. Also, very small quantities are used for each scan and the dose is adjusted for patient weight. Within 24 hours of having completed a PET/CT scan, there is no measurable amount of radioactivity left in the body.
6. Where do you store or dispose of the radioactive FDG that you don't use?
Due to the short half-life of FDG, the cyclotron facility must produce it on a daily basis and cannot produce bulk quantities that can be stored for future use. The facility can only produce product that is required for that particular day. What small quantity might remain after daily clinical scanning is complete is stored in a lead-lined container in a secure-access room. This FDG will have decayed to background in 24 hours and can then be safety discarded with normal trash.
7. Does BC Cancer have a license to operate the cyclotron?
BC Cancer has maintained a current cyclotron operating license since the facility opened in 2010. The license was issued by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).
8. How can I contact the facility to ask more questions about the PET Cyclotron and Radiopharmacy facility?
You can simply call the department's Front Desk receptionist at 604-707-5951 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .