A $5 million fundraising campaign to purchase a PET/CT scanner will result in a dramatic improvement of treatment outcomes for Southern Interior cancer patients.
The B.C. Cancer Agency unveiled the fundraising drive Monday with a commitment by the BMO Financial Group to match donations up to $500,000 as of Oct. 31.
The campaign itself has a three-year timeline with the PET/CT scanner targeted to be operational by 2019.
The scanner is the most advanced tool available to make accurate diagnosis and treatment for cancer. It can save patients from unnecessary radiation treatment, surgery and biopsies.
This year, more than 900 patients across the Southern Interior made the trek to Vancouver to have the scanner test done, which is a 200 per cent increase in demand since 2009. Overall, the two scanners in the Lower Mainland deal with 2,500 scan requests annually.
Dr. Ross Halperin, a radiation oncologist and regional medical director of the Southern Interior, said many regional patients are unable to make that trip for a variety of reasons, from the expense to being too sick to travel.
“I suspect that within 10 years with a scanner in place here in Kelowna, there will be 2,000 patients annually having a PET/CT scan done as the population continues to grow,” Halperin said.
He explained the PET/CT scan reveals more information than an MRI or CT scan might otherwise reveal.
“Those scans can show a lump but what the PET/CT scan does is provide us more information about what is inside that lump. There are many reasons why a lump may show up and be enlarged, but a PET/CT scan helps answer that question and gives a better idea what the ideal treatment option would be,” he said.
BMO’s involvement stems on a personal level from the experience of Kerry Patterson, BMO branch manager.
Patterson’s brother Jordan was diagnosed with cancer last year at age 40. An initial CT scan was inconclusive, so he travelled to Vancouver for a PET/CT scan.
The result provided information to doctors about where Jordan’s cancer had spread and the best treatment option.
“My brother has two young twin boys that he had to bring with and I’m thankful his wife was able to travel as well,” Patterson said.
“But most families may not have that same opportunity or may find it extremely difficult.”
Patterson has also since learned that her sister has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“At BMO we believe it is crucial for us to give back to the communities where our customers and employees live,” said Steven Jensen, regional vice-president of B.C. Interior business banking for BMO Bank of Montreal.
“The cancer treatment benefits make this a life saving endeavour.”
Cynthia Waldek-Peters, director of development for the BC Cancer Foundation, said she hopes BMO’s contribution will inspire additional support, given that cancer impacts the lives of one of every two Canadians.
“There are currently 5,000 people across the Southern Interior receiving some form of cancer treatment,” she noted.
With the BMO match contribution target of $500,000 reached, it still leaves $4 million that will need to be raised from within the Southern Interior region.
Construction will also be required to house the PET/CT scanner at the Kelowna General Hospital site, which also houses the BC Cancer Agency Sindi Ahluwalia Hawkins Centre for Southern Interior cancer patients.
“We hope that individuals and corporations in our community will take part to help drive this critical advancement in cancer care,” Waldek-Peters said.