Digital PET/CT Scans Provide Better Imaging Outcome in Nuclear Medicine

SJMC was the first private hospital in Malaysia to offer digital PET/CT Technology

A digital PET/CT scanner allows for faster scans, reduces dosage radioisotopes use, and improves lesion detection compared to older analogue PET/ CT scanners.

In 2022, SJMC became the first private hospital in Malaysia to offer digital PET/CT scan as part of its nuclear medicine services. Positron emission tomography (PET) scanner and a computed tomography (CT) are highly utilised scanners in nuclear medicine. They are used as a pair for better imaging outcome.

Conventional medical scans such as CT scan, X-rays, ultrasound and MRI detect anatomical or structural changes in the human body to detect disease and to assess treatment response.

Early detection with digital PET/CT Scan

The main difference with PET/CT is that it attempts to detect physiological or functional changes to diagnose a condition and evaluate treatment response. As physiological changes occur earlier in the development of a particular disease, it stands to reason that diseases are able to be detected earlier before there are any significant anatomical changes that can be detected on conventional scans.

Dr Yogendren Letchumanasamy, Nuclear Medicine Physician at Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC)

To put it in simpler terms, consultant nuclear medicine physician at Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC) Dr Yogendren Letchumanasamy says, “The difference between a PET/CT and a traditional CT scan is that a traditional CT scan can only show you the form of the abnormalities. It can neither tell you the function nor the aggressiveness of the abnormalities. However, with a PET/CT, you can determine the form and the function of the abnormal cells, thus allowing doctors to come up with a better course of treatment.”

Dr Yogendran continues to explain that earlier treatment means improving the chances of patient recovery and survival. For a cancer patient, the treatment response to a particular regime can be assessed earlier to determine the effectiveness of the treatment, allowing oncologists to modify the treatment earlier and thus improving the overall outcome for the patient.

Precise treatment for cancer can save lives

Nuclear medicine is now in the era of precision medicine where treatments are tailored according to the patient’s cancer and condition. Consultant nuclear medicine physician at SJMC Dr Dharmendra Harichandra says, “Nuclear Medicine technology allows not only the early detection of cancer and the extent of the cancer in a person, but it allows for a continuous assessment of the patient’s response to a particular treatment regimen.”

Dr Dharmendra Harichandra, Nuclear Medicine Physician at Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC)

He explains the practice of using a standardised treatment plan for all patients of a particular cancer is slowly dying out. In the future, every patient’s treatment will be tailored specifically to each case, with nuclear medicine scans playing an important role in fulfilling this objective.

Advancing precision medicine with nuclear technology

Nuclear medicine allows for a semiquantitative analysis of the disease state, and this allows for more precise and objective evaluation of the disease and the treatment response. For instance, prior to treatment, a tumour will pick up FDG, a radioactive glucose according to its metabolic activity. The more active the tumour is, the higher the glucose uptake. This glucose avid disease focus has a greater potential to grow and spread. This activity can be measured on the PET/CT scan. 

After the course of treatment, the cancer can be evaluated again. A drop in the glucose uptake or complete resolution of the metabolic activity indicates the treatment is effective and can be continued to kill the cancer cells.