Cooley Dickinson Responds to Demand by Adding More PET/CT Scans

NORTHAMPTON — Due to increased demand, PET/CT scans are now offered more often at Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

In November, CDH began offering PET/CT scans, a form of advanced, non-invasive imaging used to diagnose and manage cancer as well as brain disorders and heart disease.

Given the demand to screen patients using PET/CT, this advanced technology is now offered on the second and fourth Monday of each month in addition to the weekly appointments that are offered on Thursdays.

The GE Discovery ST PET/CT system combines two types of imaging technology: positron emission tomography (PET) and computer tomography (CT). PET creates images that show how the body is functioning, while CT allows the physician to see the body’s anatomic structure. According to GE Medical Systems, the manufacturer of the Discovery ST, PET/CT is “becoming the standard of care” at community hospitals and signifies a “breakthrough in diagnostic care, providing both functional and anatomical information in a single image.”

When the PET/CT images are combined, the patient’s complete imaging picture is revealed, providing the physician with important information about the disease and allowing the physician to target treatment. With the combined image, said radiologist Dr. David Rifken, “the interpreting physician can more accurately diagnose and identify cancer, in particular.”

In the past, Rifken said, there was a need to perform separate imaging studies, often on different dates, and then visually compare them. “Now, these studies can be performed simultaneously and evaluated as fused images, increasing diagnostic confidence” and, at the same time, making the process more convenient and less time-consuming for patients.

The design of the Discovery ST system allows for increased patient comfort, too. A larger opening and a shorter tunnel length mean that there is more flexibility when positioning larger patients, and the open design helps those who may experience claustrophobia.

Medical oncologist Dr. George Bowers, medical director of the CDH Cancer Care Program, said a combined PET/CT scan provides the oncologist with a more comprehensive evaluation of a patient’s condition. “PET/CT imaging gives us the ability to more accurately stage and evaluate the disease,” he said, and, after interpretation, “this technology allows us to recommend the most appropriate treatment.”