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Southlake brings first 'game changing' PET-CT scanner to area

'Patients will no longer have to travel and we can now diagnose patients much more quickly at Southlake,' CEO says as hospital unveils its new PET-CT Simulator scanner in the Stronach Regional Cancer Centre

Without a PET-CT Simulator scanner in York Region, many cancer patients at Southlake Regional Health Centre have had to travel to Toronto or Mississauga, but all that is going to change. 

On Monday, the hospital unveiled its new PET-CT Simulator scanner for the Stronach Regional Cancer Centre.

Given the stress patients deal with already on a daily basis, this is one way the hospital hopes to make things easier on them.

“Getting diagnosed with cancer is stressful enough, but then knowing you have to drive into the city or to Mississauga, my wife (Elizabeth) has been in both of those machines, having it here eliminates one level of stress,” said Bill Lee, a Southlake cancer patient. “We have absolute faith in this place and to know it’ll happen here, it takes so much stress away from an already terrible diagnosis.”

Earlier today, Southlake representatives, local dignitaries and donors celebrated the occasion made possible thanks to an investment of more than $2.8 million dollars from the provincial government and more than $12 million in fundraising for the campaign that includes support for the PET-CT.

With the amount of energy the fight against cancer takes out of patients, having to spend time on the road and in traffic when they’re already exhausted is a tough proposition, said Jamie Pimek, a Southlake cancer patient

“Having gone through treatments and tests myself dealing with cancer, I can’t stress the importance of having this close to home and in your own community,” said Pimek. “Going through chemotherapy treatments, all I wanted to do was get to the hospital and get home.”

The PET-CT Simulator scanner uses nuclear medicine to detect change within cells at a metabolic level, allowing for earlier cancer diagnosis. Arden Krystal, president and CEO of Southlake, called the technology revolutionary. 

“To have the best diagnostic and treatment equipment possible is really amazing,” she said. “Patients will no longer have to travel and we can now diagnose patients much more quickly at Southlake. This machine will serve more than 1,200 patients every year and will make a huge difference to the lives of patients.”

As lead physician for the Stronach Regional Cancer Centre, Dr. Peter Anglin knows how massive an impact this machine will have for the community, saying it will give patients a day back in their lives, something that can mean a lot.

“PET scanning has changed how we manage a number of malignants, particularly lymphomas and lung cancer,” he said. “Over the last few years, we’ve been utilizing PET a lot, the only challenge is that our patients have had to make a trip. The biggest thing we do here is provide top-quality care close to home, and for patients to go downtown, it’s a day out of their lives. Now we’re able to offer it close to home and there’s not two to three-week delays to get PET scans done.”

In 2021, Southlake Foundation launched the HERE is Where Cancer Meets its Match campaign to keep pace with technological advances and to grow the Stronach Regional Cancer Centre.

“We launched HERE is Where Cancer Meets its Match to address the cancer centre's most urgent priorities, expanding programs and services, keeping pace with technology, like the PET-CT, and growing our capacity,” said Jennifer Klotz-Ritter, president and CEO of Southlake Foundation. “This is one of the fastest growing populations, and an aging population. We have to be cognizant that these are factors that contribute to the need for cancer care.”

“A cancer diagnosis is scary enough without having to travel for care,” said Dawn Gallagher Murphy, Newmarket-Aurora MPP. “This is a true game-changer.”

Southlake has raised over $12 million of its $20-million campaign goal with the funding helping to bring the hospital its first PET-CT Simulator.

“These funds have empowered us to make headway on important projects to keep cancer care the very best cancer care right here in our community and easy to access,” said Klotz-Ritter. “The PET-CT is a game-changing piece of technology. This really is a milestone moment.”