After cancer for prostrate cancer, patients often return for follow-up scans to check for recurrences of the cancer. SPECT imaging and CT scans are commonly used, but both methods have limitations.
"In the past, our images – it was sometimes difficult to determine if truly it was activity related to cancer and, also, where was the activity," said Dr. Pete Hoffman, a radiation oncologist for Rex Healthcare.
SPECT imaging – or single photon emission computed tomography – use a monoclonal antibody. Injected into the blood stream, the antibody is absorbed by the more active tissues – such as places where cancer is present.
"And the nuclear medicine tracer that we attach to it allows us to obtain the images," Hoffman said.
However, the results from SPECT imaging are fuzzy. CT scans – or computed tomography – uses X-rays that provide more physical detail.
A new scanner allows him to combine the best of both methods, Hoffman said.
"By fusing the SPECT and CT scan, we now have anatomy that can determine and help us define where the recurrence is," he said.
Hoffman looks to see if the cancer has spread or remains in the same area where the prostate gland was previously removed. Radiologist Dr. Andrew Moran said the result lights up in bright yellow.
"On the fused image with the CT scan, we're able to say that that's precisely within the prostate bed," Moran said.
"(The scanner is) helping us to image that area better to guide our therapy, so that we can be more accurate on treating and spare more normal tissues," Hoffman said.
Rex also uses the SPECT/CT scan to find abnormalities in bones, spot infections in the body and find the source of gastrointestinal bleeding.
In all those cases, its improved capabilities better a patient's chances for faster recovery from treatment – with fewer complications.