Riverina residents will no longer have to travel hours to access crucial cancer diagnoses technology with the region's first PET/CT scanner coming to Wagga.
PET - or positron emission tomography - scans play a vital role in the early detection and ongoing monitoring and management of cancer, with patients in the Riverina having to travel to Canberra, Albury and even Melbourne for the treatment before now.
The nuclear medicine scanner has been long-awaited by many in the region, including Wagga man Ron Henderson, who knows the struggle of distance well.
"They found a bad melanoma on the top of my head, and I was told it wouldn't be a very good outcome for me," he said.
"For the first few scans, I had to travel to Melbourne which takes a whole day or more out of you, and then I'd go to Albury after that."
Thankfully, Mr Henderson says he is now "good as gold" after immediate surgery to get the melanoma removed.
But not all are as fortunate.
"I drove patient transport at Wagga Base for a while, and I'd have to take a lot of people to get these scans far away," he said.
"So many people here needed it, and that extra distance is just another stress in what's already a scary time."
Mr Henderson said the PET/CT scanner was "long overdue" for Wagga.
"I was that excited to hear about it coming, we've spoken about it and wanted it for so long," he said.
"It's an absolute game changer, it's so important for early detection and to make sure you know if anything else pops up.
"Even now, I have had a few more show up since and need regular monitoring, so to know I can get that done right here is so great."
The PET/CT scanner will be installed at I-MED Radiology's Calvary Hospital clinic in November this year.
Radiologist Nick Stephenson said the machine was much needed in the region.
"I attend cancer multidisciplinary team meetings where patients' treatment plans are discussed, and the number of cancer patients needing PET/CT scans now is basically all of them," he said.
"It's much more common than it used to be, so it is a real issue and now we are able to address that here in Wagga."
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Dr Stephenson many of the patients needing scans were already being treated at Calvary Hospital, meaning the location was ideal.
"The cancer centre is also right next door, and I-MED have the nuclear medicine contract with Wagga Base for those patients too, so it's an ideal scenario," he said.
I-MED's regional manager Nola Ford said the new service meant providing regional communities like Wagga with the best treatment available.
"Having a PET/CT service located in Wagga provides our community with the best diagnostic imaging technology right on their doorstep," she said.
"Patients requiring PET/CT scans are often undergoing a very stressful time in their lives - having to travel outside of Wagga just adds to the anxiety and stress.
"Now they will have easy access to this service in familiar, relaxed surroundings."
All patients will require a referral from a medical practitioner prior to booking a PET/CT examination.