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Published on January 02, 2008

Fusion Software Make Cancer Treatment More Precise

January 2, 2008

The Illinois Regional Cancer Center (IRCC) has purchased new computer software that makes localizing a cancerous tumor and planning for the radiation treatment more precise. 

CT scans are used in conjunction with PET scans to pinpoint the specific area of the body that requires radiation therapy.  However, the physician reading these scans normally would have to study them separately and then carefully envision what the area would look like if both scans were overlapped.  The IRCC’s new software actually integrates both the CT and the PET scans into one clear, concise picture that the physician can easily read.

Dr. Bharati Bhate, radiation oncologist with IRCC, says this technology allows the physician to accurately plan the patient’s radiation treatment by determining a very localized area of the body to receive the radiation, therefore, cutting down on radiation exposure to the rest of the body.

“Reducing radiation exposure to other areas of the body is important because each organ or body system has a specific volume of radiation that it can withstand,” Dr. Bhate says, “When developing a treatment plan for a cancer patient, physicians must be very mindful of the radiation volume to other parts of the body.

A CT scan reads differently than a PET scan.  A Computer Tomography, or CT, scan shows the body’s organs and tissues at a high resolution. A Positron Emission Tomography, or PET, scan depicts the heat energy surrounding these organs and tissues in degrees of color.  A cancerous area in the body generates a greater amount of heat energy than a non-cancerous area; therefore, it shows a more intense color on a PET scan. 

With the opening of the new Kishwaukee Community Hospital, a combined PET/CT machine was installed which allows patients to have these tests locally. This machine performs the two scans back-to-back in the same machine without the patient having to move. The images produced can be viewed as a separate CT and PET scan, or together with computer aided technology that combines the scans. 

The result is a more accurate diagnosis of a tumor and its exact location. Currently, this technology is used in treatment plans of the following cancers: breast, colorectal, esophageal, lung, lymphoma, melanoma, thyroid, cervical, and head and neck.

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