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From left to right: Steve Harris; Hazel McCallum; Time Dowling; Abbie Clough; Jill McKenna; Ruth Nisbet

Radiotherapy MRI scanner reaches 10,000th patient milestone


The Northern Centre for Cancer Care (NCCC), based at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, recently celebrated its 10,000th MRI patient scan.

MRI is a method of obtaining highly detailed pictures of the inside of a patient’s body, using a powerful magnet, radio waves and a computer. The scanner does not use x-rays and there are no known side effects.

The NCCC MRI scanner was first used in December 2009 and the centre was the first in the UK to routinely use MRI to improve the planning of radiotherapy treatments.

The use of MRI in the radiotherapy process enables more accurate identification of the tumour and allows other organs to be spared radiation during therapy.

With access to MRI in hospitals at a premium though, only a few radiotherapy centres are able to take advantage of these benefits.

Dr Hazel McCallum, Consultant Clinical Scientist, explained: “Our MRI scanner gives us superb soft tissue definition in patient images that we can then fuse with CT scanner images. This gives the oncologists a better tool for identifying the extent of disease as well as any organs at risk in the patient.”

The first patients to use the MRI to improve their radiotherapy treatment were those with gynaecological cancer. Scanning for prostate patients followed swiftly, with nearly 70 patients per month being scanned within six months of opening.

The scanner now routinely uses radiotherapy MRI planning scans for patients with head and neck, brain, anus and rectum cancer and is an essential part of the radiotherapy service.

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