Compared to when she was starting her professional path, today’s cancer treatment is more personalized thanks to improved and patient-driven care.
When Irina Rinta-Kiikka was studying medicine, and practicing at different hospitals in her home country of Finland in the early 90’s, it was relatively common that diagnosing cancer required “exploratory surgery”, meaning that a patient’s stomach or chest was opened so that the surgeon could take tissue samples to be tested for cancer. At the time, imaging equipment and their technical features and diagnostic capabilities were considerably weaker than today.
”This procedure generated a painful wound and meant that the patients could not go through cytostatic therapy right after the procedure, that had to be postponed due to their frail condition. I was quite taken aback by this, wondering whether that really was the best way to take care of the patients”, says Irina Rinta-Kiikka, Chief Physician, Imaging Centre and Pharmacy, Pirkanmaa Hospital District located in Southern Finland.
The district also includes the Tampere University Hospital, the second largest hospital in Finland, which provides healthcare services to over one million patients every year by around 7,000 healthcare professionals.
Since then, Rinta-Kiikka has been witnessing far more advanced cancer diagnosis and treatment, partly enabled by improved imaging technology. “Today we are scanning the patients before anything else to fully understand their situation – radiologists examine the scans thoroughly and then describe the findings in detail to create the foundation of the treatment plan”, Rinta-Kiikka says.
According to her, gone are the days when radiologists stayed behind the scenes, sitting alone in dark rooms studying scans. Now the radiology department delivers vital support services for other departments, acting almost as a meeting center, bringing all the experts together. She explains that the new working model is the best way to combine expertise from different fields and to bring comprehensive and all-inclusive care for their patients.In order to provide first-class service the radiology department updates its imaging equipment regularly, most recently purchasing Revolution CT imaging system from GE Healthcare that is mainly being used clinically, serving large patient groups, but also in clinical drug and patient research.
Rinta-Kiikka and her colleagues were looking for a solid system with broad usability and strong image quality that can screen all body structures from head to toe, and that could diagnose and follow not only the treatment of cancer patients, but also be used in the treatment of coronary and other arteries and different inflammatory processes. Dose management is also an important criterion for purchasing decisions today.
“We are under great pressure to provide high-quality images with a reduced dose of radioactive tracer, and improved dose management is one of the key benefits of the new system. This is particularly important for children and young people”, says Rinta-Kiikka, who points out that another important benefit is the great coverage that the system delivers.
“Now we are able to scan the whole heart with a single rotation and a lot faster, which means that we are more likely to produce quality scans. It is also common that patients move during the scan when they are nervous, but the new system is not affected by this”, she continues.Cancer has been consistently increasing during the past 30 years in Finland partly due to the ageing population, and as many as every third person gets cancer during his or her life time. The positive news is that cancer deaths are relatively decreasing due to the improved diagnostics and care (source: National Institute for Health and Welfare, 2014).
“Luckily, the new imaging technology is so sensitive that we are diagnosing cancer earlier, and Computed Tomography (CT) is the method number one to see if the treatment works or not. There is no point, for example, giving a tough treatment, if the patient is not responding to it appropriately. The treatments are tailored individually, depending what is the starting point. Sometimes we are not able to boot to the cancer, but we can keep it under control.”
The video shows the Revolution CT imaging system installation at Tampere University Hospital.
The patient-driven care has gotten a stronger position during the past years, and we have become better at taking human factors into account, always thinking what is best for this person and for his or her life situation. I see this as a very positive development”, Rinta-Kiikka concludes.