Getting a clear picture of cancer

Susan Armitage’s life has certainly been impacted by cancer, starting back in 2001 when she lost her husband Murray to cancer.  Then, in 2012, Susan herself was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) which she continues to be monitored for today.

MRI machines—which provide high quality medical images—are required to prepare for and monitor the treatment of cancer patients.  However, they are very problematic for people with claustrophobia like Susan.  In fact, approximately five percent of the population experiences claustrophobia to some degree.

When Susan was contemplating a donation to Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, she wanted her donation to help others affected by claustrophobia, but she wanted it to have a broader benefit as well.  Almost all cancer patients require imaging at some point in their diagnosis or treatment, so she decided to direct her gift of $1 million towards the purchase of a very sophisticated MR imaging machine that features newer short bore (tunnel) and wide-opening design to make it easier for patients who are claustrophobic.

“Just thinking about coming to The Princess Margaret for an MRI would cause me to break out in a sweat, so I started researching and asking my friends if they were aware of any alternatives or new equipment designs that I could help lobby for,” said Susan.

“Helping our patients with mild or severe claustrophobia get through the MRI procedure is a huge challenge,” explains Dr. Lawrence White, Radiologist-in-Chief of the Joint Department of Medical Imaging. “Our team is very excited that more open and tolerable MRI systems will soon be part of our facilities so these patients do not have to endure the high anxiety that older design machines put them through.”
Imaging plays a pivotal role in the delivery of Personalized Cancer Medicine.  It is a core component of:
  • early cancer detection
  • surgical and radiation treatment planning
  • monitoring treatment response
  • surveillance of patients for recurrence
In addition to overseeing imaging procedures and the interpretation of results, the radiologists at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre now have access to—and are developing themselves—cutting edge technology that enables them to deliver new treatment protocols that are life-saving alternatives for patients who do not qualify for surgery.  Recently, radiofrequency ablation and thermal ablation techniques have been used successfully for several types of cancer and are being evaluated through our clinical trials program.