By Dakota Grossman, Staff Writer for The Maui News
KAHULUI — Pacific Cancer Institute has installed a new CT scanner that is “unlike any in Hawaii” for its ability to image cancer in the body more efficiently and effectively, according to medical officials.
Benton Turner, administrator at the cancer institute, said earlier this month in an email that the scanner replaces the current 18-year-old machine and “rivals any in larger cancer centers on Oahu and the Mainland.”
Maui County patients now have access to higher quality treatment without having to make a trip off-island.
“We are certainly proud of our technology, but the team is what makes the real difference,” Turner said. “Our desire is to ensure patients know their treatment options, make informed decisions about their care and have confidence the treatment they receive here on island is second to none medically and emotionally.”
Prior to treating patients with the new CT, the cancer institute competed testing, acceptance of the machine and primary training of its team. Additional in-depth training is scheduled for July, Turner said.
He added that patients have already been using the new CT scanner.
Patients are referred to Pacific Cancer Institute by outside health care organizations. From there, the patient has a consultation with a radiation oncologist to determine if radiation is an appropriate treatment option.
To ensure image accuracy and consistency, the patient lies in the same position for every radiation treatment, he said Tuesday afternoon beside the new CT scanner.
Turner explained that the upgraded scanner is a 16-slice scanner as opposed to the previous four-slice scanner, which means that imaging is faster.
“The actual scan takes about 10 to 12 seconds in most cases, which is a lot quicker than the old one,” he said.
The CT scanner also has the ability to reduce artifacts in the X-ray images caused by metal in artificial hip and knee replacements, screws and dental fillings, for example. These advanced features are the only ones of their kind in a CT on Maui, he said.
“It allows us to take really sophisticated imaging in a really modern way,” added Benjamin Falit, medical director and radiation oncologist.
Thomas Sullivan, medical physicist, added that the new scanner also has 4D capabilities and uses internal anatomy — the previous scanner used external anatomy — for image reconstruction. This means that the machine can capture the movement of tumors, for example, in four dimensions (length, width, height and time).
Being able to track the movement helps to minimize the amount of radiation dosed to the treated area. This in turn will help reduce the potential side effects of radiation to any surrounding tissue, Sullivan said.
Following the installation of the CT scanner, the cancer institute also installed a contrast injector, which will allow the radiation oncologist to better locate and differentiate tissues in the body.
Prior to the installation of this injector, these contrast scans were done at different locations on Maui. Now, all parts of the procedure now can be completed at the cancer institute, making it simpler for the patient to receive all their treatments at one location.
While the injector and contrast studies are an added procedure in conjunction with the CT scan, there are no additional medical expenses for the patient, Turner said.
The total cost, which includes the CT scanner and the injector, is roughly $600,000, Turner said.
Once patients receive a consultation and a CT scan, they will follow up with TrueBeam, a radiotherapy tool that synchronizes imaging from the CT scan and monitors patient positioning and movement.
The TrueBeam linear accelerator, paired with the new CT scanner, gives the cancer institute the opportunity to diagnose patients quicker and deliver more precise treatment, Turner added.
The old scanner had served the cancer institute since 2001 but did not contain the software needed for upgrading its features. On May 27, the old scanner was pulled out and then replaced with the new one the following week.
The old CT scanner is being used for parts across the U.S.
“This project will be quite helpful in our battle against cancer here on Maui,” Turner said. “PCI continues to invest in the latest technology to better serve the community.”
* Dakota Grossman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.