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Radiation Medicine and Technology Help Combat Cancer in Jordan

A medical staff analyses the image of a patient using the positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET-CT) at KHCC. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Three words — You Have Cancer — can dramatically change your life. At the King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC) in Amman, Jordan, 4 000 to 5 000 new cancer cases are diagnosed and treated each year. The KHCC is a leading hospital in the Middle East treating cancer patients from the region, with a third of its patients coming from abroad. The hospital uses nuclear medicine and advanced technology for diagnosis and treatment, and received support from the IAEA.

“The KHCC provides adult and paediatric patients with advanced comprehensive cancer care for all types of cancer,” said Akram N. Al-Ibraheem, Chairman of the hospital’s Nuclear Medicine Department. “We have diagnostic equipment that includes PET-CT as well as SPECT to track and identify this dreadful disease.”

Techniques and technologies of radiation medicine — which include the disciplines of nuclear medicine, diagnostic radiology and radiotherapy — offer effective means to combat cancer.
They offer unparalleled benefits, enabling insights into physiological function, biological processes and morphology that provide more specific information about organ function and disease, Al-Ibraheem highlighted.

“The cure rate among cancer patients is strongly dependent on the stage of the disease at the time of its diagnosis, so early detection remains key,” Al-Ibraheem said, adding that the IAEA has supported the purchase of diagnostic equipment, including the installation of a new generation SPECT-CT equipment by the end of 2017.

Having advanced medical equipment on its own is not enough: equally vital is providing necessary training to medical personnel, he said, adding that it is in this area that IAEA technical cooperation has been crucial. “Collaboration to increase expertise has not only benefitted Jordanian medical professionals but also others in the region.”

Spread the word

Raising awareness on how nuclear medicine can help in cancer treatment is not easy in countries where ‘cancer’ remains a taboo word. The KHCC’s public awareness campaign has various outreach programmes to promote the motto ‘right diagnosis is half way to the right treatment’, Al-Ibraheem said. It hosts workshops and reaches out to local civic bodies as part of its efforts to build public awareness on the importance of early detection and prevention and to raise funds to help support the KHCC.

Tackling cultural and social stereotypes on cancer and encouraging people to get tested go hand-in- hand, he said. Recovering patients and their families also play an influential role in spreading the word on how ‘new technology’ helps to combat cancer, he explained.

Precise training in nuclear medicine and diagnosis

As part of its efforts to ensure high quality medical staff, the KHCC has a dedicated training centre that offers education and training on nuclear medicine and diagnosis among other disciplines in cancer care.

The training centre offers medical and non-medical courses to both KHCC staff and health care professionals from across the country and the region. It includes a fully comprehensive oncology nursing education programme, which provides detailed guidelines and procedures on the safe use of nuclear medicine and diagnostic equipment. “Our aim is to make sure that procedures involving PET-CT scan, SPECT and theragnostic are undertaken with outmost caution and care,” Al-Ibraheem said. Benefits are many but if proper procedures are not followed, there are significant risks to patient safety, he added. “Theragnostic technologies include nano-based procedures to improve imaging and therapy, and offer cutting edge biomedical health care products and services.”

Safety issues as regards radiation medicine relate to radiation exposure of patients and staff involved in the delivery of health care services. To ensure maximal benefits and minimal risks, it is essential that the nuclear applications in medicine rely on guaranteed attention to all aspects of radiation safety, adequate dosimetry and quality assurance procedures. They will largely limit the risk of undue radiation exposure to workers and the public, and dose mis-administration to patients.

IAEA support

Through its technical cooperation programme, the IAEA has helped the KHCC to establish training programmes in nuclear medicine and diagnosis. IAEA expert visits, including support offered through the IAEA imPACT mission, have helped to assess and improve Jordan’s cancer control capacity and needs, Al-Ibraheem said. Training provided to nuclear medicine physicians, radiologists, radiotherapists, and medical physicists has contributed to the establishment of a high calibre staff on-call for cancer care, he added. This training has been supported through expertise, fellowships, training courses and an exchange of information such as in radiation oncology and medical physics.

To enhance the cancer care programme in Jordan, the 2015 Practical Arrangements agreement signed between the IAEA and KHCC covers three primary areas of collaboration: direct training of nuclear medicine professional, organization of meetings and workshops on clinical practices, and development of the IAEA Curricula for Nuclear Medicine Professionals, a state-of-the-art training programme which aims to improve, broaden and continuously update the knowledge of nuclear medicine professionals around the world.

This year, the focus of the  IAEA Scientific Forum  is on Nuclear Techniques in Human Health: Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment. The event is taking place on 19-20 September, and the planned sessions include topics on compressive care cancer, radiotherapy and theranostics. 

 

The cure rate among cancer patients is strongly dependent on the stage of the disease at the time of its diagnosis, so early detection remains key.
Akram N. Al-Ibraheem, Chairman, Nuclear Medicine Department, King Hussein Cancer Center, Jordan