New Tool Being Used at Conemaugh Memorial to Help Stage Rare Tumors

April 27, 2018

A new diagnostic imaging test is now being used at Conemaugh Memorial to help doctors detect rare tumors.

Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are tumors which develop in the hormone-producing cells of the body’s endocrine system. These tumors affect roughly 12-thousand people each year. They are often very small and finding them at an early stage can be a challenge. A new radioactive agent called gallium Ga-68 dotatate is being used during Positon Emission Tomography (PET) imaging to help locate these tumors. Conemaugh’s first patient to undergo testing with Ga-68 took place in mid-April.

“Our new PET/CT scanner is an amazing piece of technology and combined with this new agent, we are better able to detect these tumors in their earliest stages when they are most successfully treated,” says Dr. John Wherthey, Radiologist at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center.

“Neuroendocrine carcinomas (or tumors) are rare and typically slow growing,” says Dr. Ibrahim Sbeitan, Medical Director of the Conemaugh Cancer Care Center. “They can originate in different locations including the gastrointestinal tract, pancreas, and lungs. Some tumor cells produce hormones, while other cells cause no symptoms. Diagnosis and treatment have improved with the introduction of PET scan for diagnosis and various treatment options for early detection. The new advances will significantly improve the outcomes for these patients.”

Conemaugh Memorial recently invested in new PET/CT technology that benefits patients by providing a high quality image in half the time with half the radiation. The average PET scan takes about 30 minutes but with the new Discovery IQ PET scanner the scan takes about ten minutes or less. The advanced technology also provides a much lower dose of radiation while still providing the highest resolution available so image quality is not sacrificed for patient comfort and convenience.