by George Warren

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A revolutionary whole-body PET scanner developed by a team at UC Davis may help give cancer survivors confidence the disease hasn’t returned.

In a single session, the EXPLORER scanner provides exceptional 3D images more quickly and with far less radiation than conventional PET scanners. This is especially important for patients who will undergo repeated PET scans.

“By building a scanner that actually covers the entire human body, we can collect all the signals coming from the patient,” said Dr. Simon Cherry, a co-inventor of the EXPLORER scanner.

Ms. Brown, a 44-year-old stage 3 breast cancer survivor, is among the first patients to be approved for the EXPLORER program. CBS13 was given exclusive access as she underwent her first scan in late September.

“Just hoping I have a good scan today,” Brown said. “I’m kind of nervous.”

A technician injected Brown with radioactive fluid, and as she lay motionless inside the whole-body scanner an extraordinary image emerged in the nearby control room. The heart and other organs absorbed the radioactive fluid and appeared with striking clarity. Radiologist Dr. Lorenzo Nardo was struck by how clearly he could see the actual chambers of the heart.

More importantly, he was struck by what he did not see — dark splotches in the breasts that would indicate the cancer had returned.

“Nice pictures and fortunately no tumor for the patient,” he said.

UC Davis says the EXPLORER scanner has broad applications beyond cancer diagnosis; it can show blood flow and inflammation and could be especially helpful for children because of its speed and relative safety.

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