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Canada lags behind U.S. in PET usage

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | February 28, 2012
Canada lags behind the United States in adoption of PET imaging and accessibility of the modality varies widely, according to a new survey put out by TRIUMF, Canada's national particle and nuclear physics laboratory, and Advanced Applied Physics Solution.

The report, released Monday, looked at the current state of molecular imaging, and was prepared by writer Susan D. Martinuk.

The report said there are only 29 publicly owned PET scanners in Canada, or about 0.86 scanners per million people. By contrast, the U.S. has more than 2,000 scanners, or 6.5 scanners per million citizens. The World Health Organization suggests countries have at least two scanners per million people, the report said.

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While the report only tracks publicly owned systems, Canada's health care plan is nationally run, so scanners in public institutions account for the bulk of the systems in the country, according to TRIUMF. There's "only a handful" of private scanners, Tim Meyer, head of strategic planning and communications with TRIUMF, told DOTmed News, often used for animal research and neurology.

Even with the existing scanners, the distribution is skewed across Canada's provinces and territories. Twelve of the scanners are in Quebec, but none in Saskatchewan, for instance. Cost varies, too. PET scans are also cheapest in Quebec, perhaps unsurprisingly, costing about $956 per scan, well below the national average of $1,500.

The reason for the relatively high number of scanners in Quebec -- about 1.5 per million residents -- is because the province made adoption of PET a policy goal after a 2001 investigation, the TRIUMF report said.

"Given that PET imaging can change the management strategy of cancer patients in anywhere from 36.5 to 50 percent of cases, there is an implication that Quebec cancer patients have a very different standard of cancer care than their counterparts in other provinces," the report said.

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