PET/CT scans can detect prostate cancer earlier than CT or MRI scans alone

prostate cancer PET/CT scans

Loyola Medicine is the first center in the Midwest to offer the first effective PET/CT scan for prostate cancer patients.

The scan can detect the location and extent of cancer that has recurred after initial treatment and spread to other parts of the body. Prostate PET/CT scans can detect cancer earlier than either CT scans alone or MRI scans.

After the initial diagnosis of prostate cancer, patients undergo treatment such as surgery, cryotherapy or radiation.

Following treatment, men are monitored with periodic prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood tests. An increase in PSA levels indicates the cancer probably has recurred, but the location is often difficult to determine.

PET stands for positron emission tomography. It’s usually combined at the same time with CT (computerized tomography) to improve the quality of the images and help localize abnormalities.

PET employs a slightly radioactive tracer drug that homes in on the targeted tissue. PET/CT scans work well for breast, lung, colon and other cancers, but until recently did not work well for prostate cancer because there were no effective tracer drugs for the disease.

That changed on May 27, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new PET scan tracer drug specifically for prostate cancer.

The drug is a synthetic amino acid analog called Axumin™ (fluciclovine F-18). Attached to the amino acid is a radioactive tracer, fluorine-18.

After Axumin is injected into the patient, the drug is taken up by prostate cancer cells. The fluorine-18 emits a small amount of energy in the form of gamma rays. The PET/CT scanner detects this energy, and a computer produces a detailed image.

Loyola is offering PET/CT scans to previously treated prostate cancer patients who have increasing PSA levels indicating their cancer may have recurred.

Patients are scanned from their thighs to their eyes. Loyola’s first patient was scanned with Axumin on Aug. 18.

“By knowing where the cancer has gone, we can provide more accurate, precise and selective treatment,” said Loyola nuclear physician Bital Savir-Baruch, MD.

“We are delighted that we can now offer PET/CT scans to prostate cancer patients in order to improve the quality of their care,” said Robert Wagner, MD, medical director of nuclear medicine.

Loyola Medicine offers a multidisciplinary team of internationally recognized physicians performing state-of-the-art nuclear medicine and molecular imaging.

Such imaging is used to diagnose and assist in the management of cancer, heart disease and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Nuclear medicine and molecular imaging also is used to diagnose many other conditions, including gastrointestinal, lung, bone, kidney and endocrine disorders.

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News source: Loyola University Health System.
Figure legend: This image is credited to LUHS.