NY Imaging Specialists at New York Cancer & Blood Specialists Brings State-of-the-Art Services to Long Island

By Jenna Haines
Monday, July 29, 2019

NY Imaging Specialists, a division of New York Cancer & Blood Specialists, is using advanced technology to help safely diagnose and monitor patients with cancer.

New York Cancer & Blood Specialists, a community oncology network with over 25 locations in Long Island, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx, is working to help provide patients with comprehensive cancer care in the convenience of their own neighborhoods.

As part of that demonstrated commitment, NY Imaging Specialists provides patients with access to state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment and services in Southampton and East Setauket.

A Reduction in Radiation Exposure

Radiation exposure during diagnostic imaging (mainly PET and CT scans) is a common concern for patients with cancer, as excess exposure to radiation can result in tissue damage and increase a patient’s risk of developing additional cancers in the future. NY Imaging Specialists works to combat these fears and protect patients from the effects of radiation by ensuring that the amount of radiation patients are exposed to during diagnostic imaging is limited to levels considered to be safe through adherence to strict protocols and by offering patients access to advanced imaging equipment, such as the GE Healthcare Discovery IQ.

Installed at New York Cancer & Blood Specialists’ Southampton office in November 2018, the Discovery IQ is a combination PET/CT stagnant scanner. During PET/CT scans, the IQ detects radioactivity utilizing rows of detectors, which are sensitive. That leads to quicker acquisition yet still produces high-quality images for our radiologists. The Discovery IQ also creates approximately a 20 times reduction to patients’ radiation exposure from the machine itself during PET/CT scans in which the CT scan is used for the purpose of attenuation correction (AC).

“The Discovery IQ acquires images at a faster speed, requires a smaller dose and exposes patients to a reduced amount of radiation from the scanner by condensing the amount of time patients spend in the device — all without affecting the machine’s ability to detect smaller lesions,” says Ana Pakal, BS, LNMT, RT(N)(CT), Director of Radiology at NY Imaging Specialists. “The device uses LightBurst, a PET detector technology, which increases the sensitivity of the acquisitions and allows radiologists to quantify standardized uptake values faster, more accurately and without the need for the kinds of doses necessary to view lesions in other PET scanners.”

In addition to reducing patients’ exposure to radiation, Pakal says, NY Imaging Specialists works to address patients’ fears by educating them on the role of radiation and its relative risks.

“Patients often ask why they are being exposed to radiation when they are already being treated for cancer,” Pakal says. “After discussing the benefits of radiation, I like to explain how the amount of radiation they are exposed to through diagnostic imaging compares to the radiation exposure they might be experiencing in their daily lives. A patient would be exposed to essentially the same amount of radiation during a chest X-ray that he or she would encounter during a five-hour flight because of the background radiation that exists at those high altitudes. Unfortunately, radiation is all around us. It is a matter of when and how much exposure to it we experience. However, at NY Imaging Specialists, we make sure to keep that exposure to a minimum.”

“My patients have become like family to me. They have changed my outlook on life. They are all dealing with an entirely unexpected situation and are often going through multiple procedures, yet they do not complain. Moreover, they say, ‘Bring it on.’ This positivity has made me a much stronger and optimistic person. They have taught me to never give up.”
— Ana Pakal, BS, LNMT, RT(N)(CT), Director of Radiology

An Oncological One-Stop Shop

NY Imaging Specialists’ arsenal of modern imaging equipment is unique for a community oncology program, according to Pakal. She believes that the breadth of services NY Imaging Specialists is capable of providing is even rarer, particularly for a program that offers such attentive care, short wait times, increased accessibility to providers and several locations that are conveniently located within patients’ neighborhoods.

“New York Cancer & Blood Specialists has the heart of a community oncology center program, but it functions almost like a small oncology hospital,” Pakal says. “When patients come in, they can receive diagnostic imaging, pick up their medications and be seen by an oncologist all on the same day. If they are lightheaded after a PET/CT scan, for example, a doctor can see them right then. Patients do not just walk in, get an X-ray and leave. We work to provide people with a comprehensive oncology workflow.”

This comprehensive support is further aided by the skill and expertise of New York Cancer & Blood Specialists’ staff, which includes medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, psychologists, radiologic technologists, social workers and nutritionists.

“I do not think I would be where I am or that New York Cancer & Blood Specialists would be where it is if it were not for the team we have,” Pakal says. “Our providers and staff are tireless in their efforts to always go above and beyond for our patients, and they ensure that we meet the highest standards possible time and time again.”

Limiting Staff Exposure to Radiation

NY Imaging Specialists at New York Cancer & Blood Specialists also prioritizes the health and safety of its staff. In order to limit the amount of radiation that technologists and other workers are exposed to while performing routine diagnostic imaging, Ana Pakal, BS, LNMT, RT(N)(CT), Director of Radiology at NY Imaging Specialists, says that she and her colleagues practice a principle known as ALARA, meaning “as low as reasonably achievable.”

ALARA, according to the CDC, recommends that radiation technologists and workers avoid any possible exposure to radiation that is unnecessary or preventable by minimizing the amount of time spent around radioactive sources, maximizing their distance from sources of radiation, and shielding their bodies from radiation exposure with the use of protective clothing or equipment.

“During PET/CT scans, we deliver the radioactive tracer with our hands,” Pakal says. “Since we do this routinely, we help minimize exposure to our body and extremities by carrying the radioactive tracer in a lead box and injecting it using a lead-coated syringe shield.”

In accordance with regulatory requirements, staff members who work in radiation also wear a film badge dosimeter, a device that measures their cumulative radiation exposure every day and is evaluated at the end of each month. According to Pakal, New York Cancer & Blood Specialists’ staff members’ readings are always safely within the limits set by the Department of Health. However, she notes, if anyone comes close to exceeding those limits, that staff member’s schedule would be adjusted to help prevent any damage to his or her health.

To learn more, visit nyimaging.com.