PET/CT Scanner

In December 2009, The Medical Center acquired a next-generation PET/CT scanner that helps doctors detect disease in its early stages and monitor the progress of patients’ treatment. The GE Discovery STE scanner combines two kinds of imaging to give doctors complete information about the patient’s condition in a single exam that usually takes less than one hour. Previously, doctors had to put patients through two separate scans to get similar information.

The Discovery STE is the latest system of its kind with advanced applications in oncology, neurology and cardiology. It combines computed tomography (CT), which provides highly detailed pictures of the patient’s anatomy, with positron emission tomography (PET), which gives a map showing normal and abnormal sites of cell function.

“The PET/CT images show both what an organ looks like and how it is working, making it the best imaging tool for cancer detection,” said Dr. Glen Vahjen, medical director of Imaging Services and director of PET/CT at The Medical Center. “The older method of finding cancer by CT scan alone is not as accurate. Structures can look normal on CT alone, but can show evidence of cancer on PET scan. Also, treated tumors can appear to be still active on CT scan but can be shown to be cancer free on PET scan.”

Advantages of this advanced technology include:

  • Determining more accurately the true extent of cancer spread and finding where the cancer started, so proper treatment can be given. This is crucially important.
  • Determining whether a treatment is working or needs to be changed, even before all the treatments have been given.
  • Laser-guided positioning which allows accurate information regarding tumor extent to be sent from the PET/CT suite to the John B. Amos Cancer Center for radiation therapy. 
  • More accurate diagnosis and treatment guidance for coronary artery disease and brain disorders.


“The scanner helps us to provide a higher level of cancer detection and care for the residents of our community,” said Dr. Vahjen.

As the region's leading provider of healthcare, Columbus Regional Health has touched the lives of most of the children and adults in this region through its comprehensive network of services. Located in the West Georgia city of Columbus, Columbus Regional was established in 1986 as a not-for-profit health services organization, but its roots can be traced back to 1836 when the local hospital was a small wooden building on the banks of the Chattahoochee River.