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What is the DICTC?

Howdy Ags! I hope everyone’s semester is going well! I can’t believe the semester is almost over. Only a few weeks left and then we are finished! Yay!

On another note, I want to tell you about the Diagnostic Imaging and Cancer Treatment Center, or DICTC, which is located between the small and large animal hospitals here at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to take a tour of this amazing facility. Unfortunately, as ambassadors we can’t take the public into the facility due to the use of radioactive material in administering radiation treatments for our cancer patients, so I wanted to give you some information about what goes on under the roof of the DICTC.

The DICTC houses 3 major machines. The first is a Tomotherapy unit, an amazing machine used to treat cancer. The college is lucky enough to house the only Tomotherapy unit in the nation big enough for use on large animals. It is also one of only two in the nation based within an academic veterinary teaching hospital. Through the use of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) with the precision of the CT scanner, clinicians are able to map and plan the correct radiation treatment for each patient.  The CT images used in IMRT help the clinical team more accurately define the boundaries of the tumor. The benefit of IMRT is that it administers a maximum amount of radiation to the cancer cells while preserving healthy cells.

The next machine the DICTC houses is a CT scanner. With this machine, clinicians are able to image animals weighing from only a few ounces up to 2,000 pounds. When I was taking my tour, the technician told us that she will image anything that will fit in the machine. She also told us that the machine is very quick, and she has taken a CT scan of a cat in about eight seconds. So if a clinician needs a quick answer about what may be wrong with the patient, this is the machine of choice!

The last machine the DICTC houses is a 3-Tesla MRI unit. Unlike the CT scanner, the MRI unit does not use radiation and provides a greater contrast between soft tissues in the body. The MRI unit takes a lot longer than the CT scanner, but is often the machine of choice if the clinician and patient don’t need a quick answer and are looking at soft tissues. As I said previously, the MRI unit has a 3 Tesla magnet. This magnet stays on all the time and is two times stronger than the one used for humans (human hospitals normally use a 1.5 Tesla MRI unit). This means that the image quality produced is VERY good and it allows clinicians to more accurately pinpoint affected areas for surgical interventions.

As you can see, the DICTC is a remarkable facility! Many people do not know we house all of those machines under one roof, but we do! It has been of great benefit to our patients here at the small and large animal hospitals and to our clinicians as they continue to provide world-class treatment to those animals!