Over 500 more patients a year will now be able to get vital medical examines thanks to a new nuclear imaging machine now up and running in Bangladesh through IAEA support. The machine is an essential tool for advanced nuclear medicine diagnosis of health conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
“Waiting in line for three months, which is what some patients who cannot afford private health care have to do, can in some cases make the difference between life and death,” said Kamal Uddin, a radiation oncologist and counterpart of various IAEA technical cooperation projects in Bangladesh.
The new positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET-CT) machine will help expand patient care in the country. PET-CT scans enable doctors to take images of what’s happening inside of the body to diagnose diseases and monitor patient progress during treatment. For little Mahbub, a PET-CT scan changed his life. He was three years old when doctors at the National Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences, or NINMAS, spotted a cancer lymphoma on Mahbub’s scan in 2015. Alarmed by the advanced stage of the disease, they began Mahbub on chemotherapy.
Mahbub on chemotherapy
After two sessions, they used a PET-CT again to check his response. Fortunately, says Shamim Momtaz Ferdousi Begum, Head of PET-CT at NINMAS, Mahbub recovered so fast that the oncologists stopped the chemotherapy. “Instead of the six chemotherapy sessions we would’ve put him through, the boy only received four,” she said. “And he is cured now and under follow up.”
“They were very anxious because we knew we just couldn’t afford it,” said Mahbub’s father Mohammad Murad. “Now we come and do all checkups at NINMAS without having to wait so long, and free of cost. We cannot believe it.” PET-CT scans are one type of nuclear medicine procedure. These procedures require the use of medical drugs called radio pharmaceuticals that contain medical radioisotopes. Many radioisotopes are produced by cyclotrons, which are a type of particle accelerator.
Currently, Bangladesh operates one cyclotron, twice a week, in a private hospital. Because It is the only source of radio pharmaceuticals for public and private centres to make PET-CT scans. A new cyclotron facility; therefore expected to be operational this summer at NINMAS, will produce radio pharmaceuticals four to five days a week.
“The new cyclotron will not only allow the existing PET-CT machines to improve their productivity; but will also provide the opportunity for other PET-CT facilities to open and contribute to national cancer management;” said Enrique Estrada; nuclear medicine physician at the IAEA.