What is a 68Gallium PSMA PET-CT Scan?
A 68Gallium PSMA PET-CT scan is an advanced and very precise imaging scan used in the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer and is used to assess whether the cancer has spread around your body and help your consultant plan your personalised treatment.
It’s a type of nuclear medicine imaging technique that uses a special radiotracer to detect prostate cancer cells. The radiotracer (68Gallium PSMA) is a special substance injected into a vein in your arm or hand before the scan. The PET-CT scanning equipment can detect the radiotracer and show where there may be prostate cancer, and show any other areas of the body where the cancer may have spread.
One of our expert consultants will assess each scan carefully before providing your referring clinician with your results. At a follow-up appointment, your clinician will help you understand what your results mean and discuss your treatment options.
At GenesisCare, we have the facilities to produce the 68Gallium PSMA radiotracer at our onsite radiopharmacy in Windsor. This means that we can provide scans within 48 hours of referral in Windsor and Oxford, so you have access to the scans essential to your diagnosis and treatment without delay.
How does a 68Gallium PSMA PET-CT scan work?
68Gallium PSMA PET-CT scans are the gold standard imaging scan for prostate cancer. A radioactive substance called 68Gallium is combined with a unique carrier molecule to create the radiotracer. The carrier molecule is attracted to a substance called prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA). PSMA is a type of protein found on the surface of prostate cancer cells in high concentrations. This includes cancer cells that may have spread to other parts of your body, and it can even seek out the smallest tumours you might have. PSMA is linked to the radioactive compound called 68Gallium, which enables the distribution of the radiotracer to be detected by the PET scan.
The CT (computed tomography) scan uses X-ray radiation to take a series of X-ray images from different angles around your body. Each X-ray image is called a ‘slice’ and produces very detailed images of your anatomy. A computer combines your PET (functional) and CT (structural) images to create extremely detailed 3D images of the inside of your body.
A PET-CT with 68Gallium PSMA is also superior to traditional bone imaging and can distinguish between bone damage caused by cancer and other non-cancer causes. We can closely and accurately monitor how well your prostate radiotherapy or hormone therapy cancer treatment is going.
After your scan, the radiotracer won’t stay in your body for long and is eliminated naturally when you urinate.
Why do I need a 68Gallium PSMA PET-CT scan?
Your consultant might recommend you have a 68Gallium PSMA PET-CT scan to diagnose prostate cancer and to check whether it’s spread or become resistant to hormone therapy so they can plan alternative treatments.
Theranostics – 177Lutetium PSMA therapy
We use 68Gallium PSMA PET-CT scans as the first step and throughout our Theranostics treatment pathway for advanced prostate cancer to predict your suitability and response to 177Lutetium PSMA therapy and assess how well it’s working. 177Lutetium PSMA therapy is an innovative treatment where we use the same techniques as a 68Gallium PSMA PET-CT to target the prostate cancer cells to deliver a radioactive substance (177Lutetium PSMA) that can destroy the cancer cells. Its unique ability to seek out the exact location of your cancer, and any areas it may have spread to, means that treatment can be focused directly on these areas.
How much is a 68Gallium PSMA PET-CT scan?
The cost of a 68Gallium PSMA PET-CT scan starts from £2,500.
We’re recognised by all major private medical insurers and also offer a range of self-payment options. We can help guide you through the referral process.
What to expect when having your scan?
It’s important to know what to expect when having your 68Gallium PSMA PET-CT scan. If you have any other concerns, please speak to your consultant. 68Gallium PSMA PET-CT scans are painless and help us in planning the best treatment pathway for you.
PET-CT scans are performed in our outpatient centres. You will be sent information regarding the preparation for your PET-CT prior to your appointment.
It’s a good idea to wear loose, comfortable clothing that doesn’t have metal zips etc as you may be able to wear these during the scan. If not, or if you prefer, we will also provide a hospital gown for you to change into.
Once you’ve arrived for your appointment, you will be brought through to a private room. If you need to change, we will provide you with a patient gown and a locker for your personal items. We will also ask you to remove any jewellery or other metal objects which may interfere with the scanner.
Before your 68Gallium PSMA PET-CT scan, your radiographer will inject a radioactive tracer into your arm or hand through a small plastic tube (cannula). The tracer will only remain in your body for a few hours and will not produce any side effects.
Once you’re ready to have your scan, your radiographer will take you into the scanning room. The PET-CT scanner is a large scanner with a hole all the way through, a bit like a doughnut, with a couch attached. They’ll ask you to lie down on your back on the couch and help you to get into the correct position and to get comfortable.
Your radiographer will leave the room, but they’ll be able to see through the viewing window from the control room for the duration of the scan. In addition, you’ll be able to talk to one another through an intercom system, and they may give you some specific instructions during the scan.
The couch will slowly move backwards and forwards through the hole of the scanner. You will be asked to keep still and breathe normally during the scan. You may hear very quiet clicking or whirring sounds. This is normal and is part of the machine taking the images.
We’ll send your results to the consultant who requested the scan, usually within 24-48 hours of completing the scan.
Prior to your scan, you’ll be injected with the radiotracer and you’ll have to wait while this circulates to the area being scanned. This can take up to an hour. Your scan will take between 30 to 45 minutes. The scan itself won’t cause you any pain, but you may find that lying in the same position causes you a little discomfort but we’ll try to make you as comfortable as possible before the scan starts. You can also listen to music through the speakers to help you relax. Once your scan has finished, your radiographer will come back and assist you back to your room.
PSA or prostate-specific antigen is a protein that is made by normal and cancerous cells in your prostate. The level of PSA in your blood can sometimes increase if you have prostate cancer. A PSA blood test is used to diagnose prostate cancer or track your prostate cancer progress during treatment.
PSMA or prostate-specific membrane antigen is a specific protein that is often found in large amounts on prostate cancer cells, the molecule in 68Gallium PSMA specifically binds to the PSMA protein found on prostate cancer cells. Combining it with the 68Gallium radioisotope means that both travel together directly to areas with prostate cancer cells, anywhere within the body, making it easier for your radiologist to identify areas that your cancer may have spread to.
You shouldn’t experience any side effects from your 68Gallium PSMA PET-CT scan, and you can usually go home as soon as your cannula has been removed. It is advisable to drink plenty of fluids to help flush the radiotracer more quickly out of your system, and you can eat as normal. The radiotracer quickly becomes less radioactive over time and will pass naturally out of your body within a few hours.
Because of the radioactivity in your system, you will be advised to avoid prolonged contact with young children or pregnant women for a couple of hours after your scan as a precaution. We’ll discuss this in more detail with you on the day.
A PET-CT scan is a low-risk procedure, and the amount of radiation you’ll receive from it is equivalent to about five years of naturally occurring (‘background’) radiation. The decision to perform a PET-CT scan is always made by a qualified member of our team who ensures that the radiation exposure is justified.
Your 68Gallium PSMA PET-CT scan will provide us with important information, and it’s considered that the benefit for you is much greater than the risk from radiation. If you have any concerns or want some more information about the risks of a PET-CT scan and the amount of radiation you’ll receive, you can speak to your consultant
You can usually go home as soon as your cannula has been removed. It is advisable for you to drink plenty of fluids to flush the radiotracer out of your system, and you can eat as normal.
Very rarely, people may have an allergic reaction to the radiotracer. However, you should let your radiographer know about any food or drug allergies you have.
It’s also important to note that if you plan to travel abroad within 48 hours of having your PET-CT scan, you should take your appointment letter with you as proof of the scan. This is because some airports have very sensitive radiation monitors which may pick up trace radiation after your test.
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