Cancer patients from Cheshire West and Chester could benefit from a new diagnostic imaging service has been launched at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre.

The £2.6m refurbishment of the diagnostic unit at the Wirral centre includes a £2m PET-CT scanner.

PET (Positron Emission Tomography) is a technique that produces images showing how the cells of your body are functioning. By combining PET and CT (Computerised Tomography) in a single scanner, timely images are produced which can reveal information regarding the exact location, size, nature and extent of disease anywhere in the body with much greater detail.

Chief executive Andrew Cannell said: “Investing in this new scanner means we can offer patients reduced radiation doses, reduced scan times and improvement in scan quality. We are always looking at ways to improve our care, and as the previous service was operated once a week on a mobile unit in the car park – it wasn’t ideal. This new static service offers an improved patient experience and vital research opportunities for our specialists.”

The new on-site service also supports leading edge PET-CT radiotherapy treatment planning which permits much more targeted precision treatment of the tumour. Before the service was introduced cancer patients attended Clatterbridge for a CT planning scan then had a separate appointment for a PET scan in Liverpool. And due to limited access to PET-CT in Liverpool, this has only been available for a very small group of patients.

Having PET-CT on site at Clatterbridge now enables this innovative planning technique to be offered to more patients quickly and seamlessly.

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Consultant in clinical radiology at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre Christopher Romaniuk added: “As the second static scanner in the region, we are able to now work in partnership with our colleagues at The Royal Liverpool University Hospital to link the booking service for PET-CT referrals and offer patients the earliest available appointment that is nearest to their home – on both sides of the [Mersey] river. We are looking to the future to make sure we provide the best cancer care to the people we serve and the introduction of this service goes a long way to ensuring that. The new PET-CT scanner also has a large 70cm bore which makes it ‘patient-friendly’ and reduces claustrophobia.”

The newly refurbished facilities have been carefully designed to improve the patient experience with four new dedicated ‘up-take’ rooms to help prepare patients for their scan in a comfortable, calming environment.

Cancer patient Kathleen Philpott, 42, of Moreton was one of the first patient’s to benefit from the service. Kathleen was scanned using the previous once weekly mobile PET-CT service in early 2015 to diagnose her lymphoma cancer. She said: “I’m claustrophobic, so I struggled to get through my first scan in the mobile unit as the room was so small and cramped. I have already had a course of chemotherapy treatment and I wasn’t looking forward to another PET-CT scan to decide if I needed radiotherapy treatment too. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the new facilities had been opened at the cancer centre. You have an hour long wait before the scan to let a contrast injection pass through your body, and the introduction of the new ‘up-take rooms’ helped this hour pass quickly and more importantly - comfortably. It was a much easier, quicker process; a 100% improvement in experience.”

The introduction of a static PET-CT service and investment in the refurbishment of the unit is a major investment by The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre as they move forward with their plans to transform cancer care across the region.

A total £155million investment will see an expansion of cancer services across the region with the development of a brand new cancer hospital in the heart of Liverpool city centre and redevelopment of the Wirral site to meet the increasing demand for specialist cancer care as the population ages, and diagnosis and treatments improve.