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New Technology Offers Inside Look At Fighting Cancer

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Doctors are using new technology to gain an inside edge on fighting cancer.

Martha Fournet wants to get a good look at the cancer that has invaded her body. In 1993, she was diagnosed with multiple myloma. Rounds of radiation, chemotherapy and two stem cell transplants put her in remission. Five years later, her cancer came back.

"It's not a curable disease, and so I knew it was going to happen," she said.

This time, Fournet has new technology, positron emission tomography (PET) fusion, to help doctors really understand what is going on in her body.

"It's a one-stop staging of cancer. No longer do I have to send a patient in for a CAT scan, a bone scan, (an) MRI scan," said Dr. Michael Hayman, director of radiation therapy.

Doctors inject a special tracer called FDG into the patient. It finds its way to active, fast-multiplying cancer cells. It lets doctors see small lesions that are undetectable in other types of exams. Doctors also say they can see the borders of the tumor, making radiation more precise and accurate.

"Dose is the major thing in controlling cancer. If you can go to a higher dose, you kill more cancers," Hayman said.

Fournet's PET scan showed only one lesion in her spine, not the several that had been expected. She said she is now ready to move forward with treatment and her life.

"There's a lot of good in this. People don't understand this, but there really is," she said.

Results from the scans are usually ready within four hours. Doctors say they are also using the test to keep tabs on if treatments are working.