Patient says her private scan saved OHIP cash
PET showed she didn't need cancer surgery
`Right now they're fighting me but they'll send you to the U.S. and it costs $5,000 American.'
Mary Lou La Barbera, cancer survivor
O'Brien's group is pushing for the government to use the seven scanners in Ontario's trials for patients with six types of cancer: colon, some lung cancers, lymphoma, melanoma, head and neck tumours and breast cancer.
Terry Sullivan, president of the provincial government agency Cancer Care Ontario, said PET scans are in limited use in Ontario, such as where other diagnostic imaging tests like CT scans don't show cancer but blood tests suggest the disease is present.
Health Minister George Smitherman has said Ontario sees benefits in PET scans but is waiting for results of the clinical trials.
"It's not clear how effective it may be in changing the way doctors already treat a certain cancer," his spokesman, David Spencer, said yesterday.
La Barbera, whose push for reimbursement goes to a hearing in October, acknowledged she did not apply for permission to get a PET scan before spending the money on one.
But she noted the health ministry is spending growing amounts of money to send Ontarians to Detroit, Buffalo and elsewhere for them.
"Right now they're fighting me but they'll send you to the U.S. and it costs $5,000 American," said the 53 year old.
The tally for those out-of-country PET scans came to $600,481 (Canadian) in the fiscal year ended March 31, five times higher than $119,000 the previous year."At some point in time they have to say this is just stupid, it doesn't make sense at all," said Dave Olinoski, general manager at Care Imaging, where scans cost $2,358 and business is growing thanks to physician referrals. The clinic will begin scanning patients three days a week instead of two as soon as more technicians can be trained, he said. Spencer said out-of-province referrals for PET scans are considered on a case-by-case basis for patients whose conditions are not suitable for inclusion in the clinical trials.