Brenda Tessaro does not suffer injustices lightly.
Tessaro, a member of the Sam Bruno PET Steering Committee, joined the fight to get Sudbury a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner when she read about Sam Bruno in local media.
Before his death to colorectal cancer in 2010, Bruno succeeded in getting PET scans covered under OHIP. His family and friends have continued to fight for Sudbury to have its own PET scanner.
“The region that has the highest cancer death rate in the province is the only region that doesn't have a PET scanner,” Tessaro said. “There's something wrong with this picture.”
A PET scanner in Sudbury would benefit more than just cancer patients, Tessaro said.
PET scanners are used to detect cancer and optimize the management of cancer treatments, but they are also used in cardiology studies to measure damaged heart tissue and in neurology to identify brain disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and epilepsy.
The device's ability to identify brain disorders, and help researchers better understand problems like dementia, could soon surpass the need for cancer screenings.
“There are currently 35.6 million people around the world living with dementia,” Tessaro said. And that number is expected to double by 2030.
In 2013, the Sam Bruno PET Steering Committee raised $90,000 to provide the Northern Cancer Centre with a PET scanner.
The committee raised $60,000 from the fourth annual Sam Bruno PET Scanner Gala last October.
An additional $30,000 was raised by selling calendars that featured Sudbury firefighters. In the last four years, the committee has collected $460,000 toward that goal.
But a PET scanner can cost around $4 million.
“We're not discouraged,” Tessaro said. “It's not about if it's going to happen, it's about when.”
She said some local philanthropists and corporations have already committed to donate funds to the campaign once they get closer to their goal.
While the province does not pay to buy PET scanners for hospitals, it does cover the costs to operate the machines. But those costs almost always go over what has been budgeted, Tessaro said, and hospitals are left to cover the difference.
If Sudbury gets a PET Scanner, community groups will likely need to continue fundraising to keep it running, unless the province pays the difference, Tessaro said.
The Northern Cancer Foundation is now $90,000 closer to having its own PET scanner.
Thanks to a donation from the Sam Bruno PET Steering Committee, and its best fundraising year yet, a PET scanner for Sudbury is closer to reality.
Over the past four years, the committee has collected $460,000 toward that goal.
The steering committee's goal next year is to reach the $500,000 mark.