Cancer diagnosis crisis averted

Cancer diagnosis crisis averted

A disruption in the supply of a specialized radioisotope needed for PET scans in Alaska has been averted. Medical imaging centers across the state this month were notified of an impending cancellation of flights carrying the cancer-diagnosing material known as FDG. 

With no localized production available, PET scan providers are wholly reliant on shipments of the FDG substance for the detection and staging of most forms of cancer. 

The isotope is produced in Seattle and then flown to Alaska for immediate use due to its short expiration indications. The substance must be used within about 12 hours of being manufactured. PET (positron emission tomography) tests allow doctors to detect cancers and determine if they have spread, and helps them evaluate the effectiveness of potential treatments such as chemotherapy. A small amount of the isotope is injected into the patient, who is then scanned in a machine, which generates 3-D images of any abnormalities. 

The cancelled flight service meant Alaska medical providers would be facing the prospect of having to refer patients to the Lower 48, or patients not even having access to these vital, often life-altering studies to assist in management of their cancer care. 

Since the announcement, Imaging Associates of Providence (IAP) has worked with a new carrier, Alaska Airlines, to facilitate arrangements for a flight that can deliver the time-sensitive isotope to medical providers throughout the state.

“Without a viable flight carrier, PET scan providers would be unable to continue these services and, more importantly, patients would be unable to receive them here in Alaska,” said IAP CEO Keith Radecic. “Working with another carrier which has the ability to handle these sensitive shipments allow patients to stay close to home for diagnostic cancer studies.”

The existing carrier of FDG is scheduled to cease the Seattle to Anchorage flights on April 27. 

“Alaska Airlines is an instrumental partner in this effort and should be recognized as such,” said G.L.Dunlap, IAP Executive Director of Operations. “This new arrangement ensures that IAP and all medical imaging providers in the state will be able to provide uninterrupted PET imaging services to Alaskans.”

Imaging Associates of Providence press release