Is a radiotracer shortage causing scan delays for cancer patients?

Wait times for NHS England cancer patients is at a record high, and now experts believe a radiotracer supply issue is causing further delays. In some cases, scans are being cancelled on short notice.

Concerns have been raised over the supply of the radiotracer Choline. The head of policy, knowledge and impact at Prostate Cancer UK told the Guardian some men are facing long delays in confirming their prostate cancer diagnosis, and PET/CT scans are sometimes cancelled with little warning due to supply issues.

Wai Lup Wong, MD, chair of the NHS England cancer diagnostics clinical reference group, said, “there is not a shortage of choline” and attributed some of the delays in patient scans to a supplier issue last year.

Richard Taylor, a patient going through a third cancer diagnosis, told the Guardian he waited more than three weeks after his initial scan to see his oncologist. Taylor said “someone in the NHS should be ashamed of the unnecessary stress they’re causing patients through a lack of reasonable forward planning…” 

“When you hear there are likely to be lengthy delays in getting a scan, you feel like not coming out from under the duvet in the morning, as your worst fears may be realized in the near future by the cancer spreading in the time it takes the NHS to put measures in place that your treatment may reasonably progress,” Taylor told the Guardian.

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