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Heavyweight in cancer battle


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http://icnewcastle.icnetwork.co.uk/chro ... _page.html

Feb 16 2007

By Jane Picken, The Evening Chronicle

It weighs a staggering 44 tonnes and costs £5m. But this powerful scanner is set to come to Tyneside in a bid to prevent more lives being lost to cancer.

The state-of-the-art machine produces a three-dimensional image of the body and can uncover hard-to-detect tumours while also showing medics how far the cancer has spread.

Because there are only seven of the PET (Positron Emission Tomography) machines in England, North East patients previously had to travel to London for a scan.

But the Chronicle can reveal that from this summer a mobile unit with a scanner will be stationed at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital.

Experts predict more than 1,500 patients will benefit from the scans every year.

Because they are so powerful, they can monitor tumours which are only 2mm in size.

They use nuclear medicine which sees patients injected with a safe radioactive substance.

The machine will arrive on Tyneside thanks to efforts by the Department of Health, the North East Strategic Health Authority and the North of England Cancer Network - a new organisation which deals with cancer treatment in the region.

"This is the first time we will be able to do these scans in the North East and we've wanted this for some time," Moira Davidson, director of the North of England Cancer Network, said.

"PET scans are a great advancement in the diagnosis of cancer as they let us see the true extent of the tumour and whether it has spread. The scans use specialist nuclear medicine.

"Before the patient goes into the machine, they are injected with a safe radioactive substance which shows up any tumour activity."

The scanner will spend three days every week at the Freeman Hospital.

And it will then be transferred to the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough for one-and-a-half days.

The arrangement has been sealed following the agreement of a five-year contract.

Positron Emission Tomography scanners are also used to identify a range of other illnesses including heart disease and brain disorders, as well as cancer of the lungs and lymphoma.

Medical specialists can request using the machine, and each scan costs around £1,000.

"Lung cancers will show up on a normal CT scan but sometimes it is difficult to see how much it has spread," explained Phil Powell, lead clinician for the network.

"We hope the scans will cut back on unnecessary operations by showing clinicians exactly what is going on in the patient's body.

"This will enable us to tell whether there really is a need for surgery."

Charities including the British Lung Foundation and the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation have recently urged the Government to provide funding for more PET scanners

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