Equipment breakdown forces Saigon patients to get cancer scans in other cities

By Le Phuong   June 27, 2019 | 06:02 pm PT
Equipment breakdown forces Saigon patients to get cancer scans in other cities
A doctor stands by a PET-CT machine at Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Le Phuong.
An equipment breakdown at the Cho Ray Hospital is sending HCMC patients to Hanoi or Da Nang for PET-CT scans.

The PET-CT and Cyclotron Unit that produces the radioactive medicine 18F-FDG at the Cho Ray Hospital in District 5 is the only source for the medicine in the city.

The medicine serves PET-CT, a nuclear medicine technique which combines a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner and an X-ray computed tomography (CT) scanner to acquire sequential images from both devices in the same session, which are combined into a single superposed image.

While other scanning methods could usually work on one specific area of the body, PET-CT can examine the whole body and help diagnose diseases at the cellular and molecular levels. The technique is capable of detecting lesions and pathology, including cancer, at a very early stage and is now widely used in Vietnam.

The system at Cho Ray Hospital has been broken for more than one month and is now in the U.S. for repair, said Nguyen Xuan Canh, head of the hospital’s Nuclear Medicine Department.

All hospitals in the city that currently provide the PET-CT treatment, which are Cho Ray, 175 Military Hospital and 115 People's Hospital, have to temporarily suspend the service. It is expected that the system will be fixed within next week.

As a result, patients in Ho Chi Minh City now have to move to Da Nang in the central region or up north to Hanoi for the scanning.

"Radioactive medicine must be used six to eight hours right after it is produced, so we cannot not transfer it from other places to HCMC for replacement."

"In the future, HCMC should have more units because the demand for PET-CT is rising," said Canh.

Cho Ray receives 80 patients and 175 Military Hospital 30 has patients coming for the PET-CT every week. Each scan costs around VND26 million (more than $1,100).

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