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Keesler Radiology Oncology Clinic improves capabilities

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Suzie Plotnikov
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

The Keesler Medical Center Radiology Oncology Clinic held a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new Interventional Radiology Program here as well as for a Positron Emission Tomography and Computer Tomography scanner, April 10.

These new capabilities allow the radiology oncology clinic to improve patient care in many different ways.

“Our cancer center is a gem,” said Col. Jason Hayes, 81st Diagnostic and Therapeutics Squadron Radiation Oncology medical director. “Before we received the scanner we would send them to civilian doctors which would take three to four weeks to get a diagnosis. It went from potentially getting results a month out to getting them the very next day.”

Not only does having a PET scanner readily available in the clinic reduce the wait time for results, it improves the accuracy of where the cancer is located.

“When we do a PET scan here, I take it back to my office and fuse it with my mapping scan and overlay those images,” said Hayes. “I use the PET scan, which points where the cancer is and the CT scan shows what the tissue looks like.”

Hayes commented that before they got the PET-CT scanner, by the time they got results back, the tumor has grown.

“Normally we have a cancer patient where I have to radiate a big area around in case that [tumor] moves during the treatment process,” said Hayes. “By being confident on where that lesion is I can decrease the size of my field and decrease the toxicity, amount of radiation that goes to normal tissue, I’m giving.”

The interventional radiology program also received similar benefits.

“We do minimally invasive image guided procedures,” said Lt. Col. Howard Hoffman, 81st MDTS Interventional Radiology chief. “Before, we did some of the simple procedures and sent the more advanced ones that I do on a routine basis to other advanced hospitals.”

As a result treatment was delayed.

“We get a lot of results faster,” said Hoffman. “If our oncologist upstairs needed a biopsy on something then I would do the procedure and they would know as soon as I would. Before, they had to wait for community services to refer the patient downtown, wait for them to accept the procedure, get the procedure done and then get the results from the hospital.”

Not only does having this program improve timeliness, it also decreases recovery times.

“If you go back 20 years ago, the only way to get a biopsy done on a little spot on the lung is to go to an operating room and cut it out,” said Hoffman. “If they find cancer they would have to wait two months before they treat because you have to recover. If I do a biopsy on a lung module, then by the time their report is signed, they are recovered and ready to start chemotherapy.”

Not only are these new additions helping the Keesler community, they are also helping patients from Veterans Affairs, which are 50 percent of Hoffman’s patients.

“I’m very glad our leadership sponsors us in these things,” said Hayes. “It has been a long road to get this and this cancer center packs a big punch. This is technology that is everywhere and is just one more piece that really makes a big difference.”