New tool delivers high-tech cancer care closer to home for Vancouver Island residents

Cancer patients on Vancouver Island now have access to a unique scanner that can deliver precise images of cancer cells, helping doctors build individual patient care plans.

The diagnostic tool, known as a PET/CT scanner, is now in operation at the BC Cancer centre in Victoria and is the first of three such scanners in the province operating outside Metro Vancouver.

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Premier John Horgan says the service means thousands of Vancouver Island patients will be spared a trip to Vancouver and can expect "better, faster diagnostic services and care, closer to home."

Health Minister Adrian Dix says 1,900 Vancouver Island residents had to travel last year for such a scan, but once the new service is fully operational as many as 2,200 scans will be administered in Victoria every year.

The BC Cancer Foundation raised most of the $6.5 million for the project, helped along by a family's donation of $2 million, $1 million from Thrifty's and the Ministry of Health provided $1.2 million.

BC Cancer's chief medical officer Dr. Kim Nguyen Chi says the scanner is a critical component of enhanced cancer care for Vancouver Island residents.

"A PET scan allows us to image a cancer molecularly, and in combining it with a CT scan, we can very accurately and sensitively diagnose where a cancer is," says Chi.

Those details help doctors design individualized treatment plans, says Chi.

Researchers also benefit, he says, because the scanner allows them to develop and research innovative future therapies.

The first procedures were performed at the new facility last week and Horgan says it has been named the Gordon Heys Family PET/CT Suite, in honour of the $2-million donation received from the Heys family of Nanaimo.

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