Log in Newsletter

A Map for Healing | By Dr. Lenny Salzberg


No one appreciated the need for a PET/CT scanner like Joyce McColl. As the director of Cape Fear Valley Medical Center’s radiology department, Joyce knew that the machine would literally save lives. As a cancer patient undergoing radiation therapy herself, she knew one of those lives could be her own. Joyce was diagnosed with endometrial cancer in 2006, when there was no PET/CT (positron emission tomography/computerized tomography) scanner at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. After a hysterectomy and radiation therapy, she thought she was cured — but she was wrong. Two years later she was extremely fatigued and her Family Physician ordered a PET/CT scan. The results were bad, there were tumors in her small and large intestines. Joyce went to Duke for surgery to remove the metastatic cancer from her intestines and to have it peeled off from around her mesenteric artery. The PET/CT scan provided a perfect roadmap for the surgeon. Everything was exactly where it was expected to be and the surgery was successful. Joyce was one of the speakers at the public hearings when Cape Fear Valley Health System petitioned the state to bring a PET/CT scanner here. After the public hearings, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services issued a Certificate of Need, the scanner was purchased, construction was done, and the unit was installed – ironically, in a room that used to be Joyce’s office. Joyce wasn’t the first patient to get a PET/CT scan at Cape Fear Valley, but said she “was early on.” At the time, there was debate whether to get a combined PET/CT unit or a stand alone PET scan. “Literature supported the combination PET/CT unit as the best choice, because of the precision,” Joyce said. “The CT is the road map for the PET scan. The two images are superimposed. If the two images are not exact, you’re not lined up; the landmarks may not be in the right place.” “It was definitely the right thing to do for the community,” Joyce said. “We have an outstanding cancer center that shines. With the large volume of cancer seen in the cancer center, and with a large number of new cases each year, it was important to Joyce have the PET/CT so patients wouldn’t have to travel long distances while sick.” Joyce was treated with chemotherapy after her surgery and has done well. A blood test has indicated that cancer cells have not returned. She has not needed another PET scan and today she continues to feel great. When it comes to diagnosing and treating cancer, being in the right place is important. Hamburger mogul Ray Croc once said, “The two most important requirements for major success are: First, being in the right place at the right time, and second, doing something about it.” Joyce was in the right place at the right time and did the right thing by helping to bring PET/CT scanning to Fayetteville. Dr. Lenny Salzberg sees patients and teaches at the Southern Regional AHEC Family Medicine Center.