Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. In 2006, 148,000 people were diagnosed with the disease, with both men and women being diagnosed in equal numbers. However, colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers because it can develop from polyps that can be removed before they become cancerous. If diagnosed early, colon cancer is curable with a 90% success rate.
“Colonoscopy has helped in early diagnosis, as well as in prevention of malignancy by removal of polyps prior to them becoming malignant,” says Nagen Bellare, MD, oncologist with Hattiesburg Clinic. “Adjuvant chemotherapy has also decreased the chance of recurrence in a large group of patients.” However, approximately one-third of patients treated for colon cancer may develop a recurrence. PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans are an extremely useful tool for detecting the recurrence of colon cancer in patients.
Earlier imaging devices lacked the sensitivity required to determine if a mass was cancerous or was caused by scarring from previous surgical or radiation treatments. Over the years, PET has proven to be more effective than CT in determining if an abnormality is cancerous, or if the cancer has spread, and is used to evaluate tumor response to treatment. It may prevent unneeded surgery, as reported in a recent study published in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine. The use of a PET scanner to evaluate the extent of the disease resulted in a change in the treatment plan in more than half of the patients included in the study. Though most patients who live more than five years without a recurrence are considered cured, physicians should include PET as part of their patient’s regular testing.
Hattiesburg Clinic houses the Pinebelt area’s only permanent PET/CT as part of its fully accredited Department of Imaging. Hattiesburg Clinic is the only facility in the state with an American College of Radiology (ACR) accredited PET scanner system. The PET/CT is available to patients Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Referrals can be made by calling the Hattiesburg Clinic scheduling desk at (601) 579-5120.