New service means early detection of cancer

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Gallium-68 generator at Sunshine Coast University Hospital (SCUH)

Gallium-68 generator at Sunshine Coast University Hospital (SCUH)

Fewer locals will have to travel to Brisbane for tests to detect cancer thanks to a new nuclear medicine service at Sunshine Coast University Hospital (SCUH).

In a first for regional Queensland public hospitals, SCUH now has access to a Gallium-68 generator to enable the health service to perform Ga-68 PSMA and Ga-68 DOTATATE Positron Emission Tomography (PET) examinations.

Dr John Blazak, Clinical Director Nuclear Medicine, said Ga-68 PSMA was a radioactive tracer used to detect prostate and other cancers sooner.

Dr Blazak said it could also be used to stage prostate malignancy before treatment and to detect recurrent disease after treatment.

“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Australian men and increases in likelihood with age,” he said.

“PSMA PET has been shown to be more sensitive in detecting metastatic disease in prostate cancer when compared with conventional imaging.

“Ga-68 DOTATATE is primarily used to detect the location of neuroendocrine neoplasms, often difficult to see with conventional imaging techniques such as CT and MRI.”

Dr Blazak said having access to this service locally meant patients could access treatment sooner.

“Before this technology our patients had to travel to Brisbane for these studies where there is a wait list of around 6-8 weeks or have them done at their own expense in a private radiology practice. 

“Having a Gallium-68 service on site at Sunshine Coast University Hospital means less travel for these potentially sick patients and a reduced wait time for these vital scans, leading to earlier treatment,” Dr Blazak said.

Pamela’s story

Nurse Pamela was gardening in October 2019, when she began to suffer severe pain on the right side of her body, which left her unable to walk. She was subsequently diagnosed with a Neuroendocrine tumour and began treatment in Brisbane.

Pamela was the first patient to undergo a gallium-68 PET scan at SCUH and has been able to continue her treatment locally ever since.

“It’s made a huge amount of difference to me to be able to be treated at SCUH. I’m allergic to petrol and diesel fumes, so trips to Brisbane would often make me quite sick. It also saves me and my family a lot of time driving to and from appointments.”