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PATIENTS & FAMILIES

  • Bonita Jones, Phoenix, Arizona

    As a radiology clinical nurse specialist and patient advocate, Bonita Jones, RN, MSN, has seen countless cancer patients helped by medical imaging – from receiving an accurate diagnosis to targeted radiation therapy and surveillance. But never did she think she would be the one sitting in the patient chair undergoing the same imaging procedures that she administers every day.

    In December 2005, the medical center where Bonita works started using a new imaging modality – cardiac CT scans – that provide a non-invasive way to look at heart arteries. About to turn 40, Bonita volunteered to be the training “test dummy” to show how the procedure worked and to be proactive in her own health. The scan was so thorough that it produced images of her liver as well. As the pictures started to appear on the screen, the room became silent. Her colleagues saw something that experience told them wasn’t normal.

    Bonita wasn’t worried. She had seen many tumors diagnosed as benign, but agreed to follow up with a CT and MRI of the whole liver to get a closer look. These studies led to a biopsy. Her own physician colleague was the one that told her that her biopsy was positive. Bonita was diagnosed with carcinoid cancer in her liver.

    From there, things moved quickly. She had surgery in less than a week. But because her cancer was detected so early, surgery is the only treatment that she has needed.

    Bonita and her son Steffan

    Now Bonita gets routine surveillance imaging to ensure the cancer doesn’t return. She wants to stay ahead of the game and knows that if it returns it will be caught early, which will allow her to have the best outcome and treatment. She’s not the only one who feels this way. Another colleague volunteered to have the same scan and went on to have heart surgery because of the findings. In all, 10 of her colleagues were scanned and four needed different therapies based on the results.

    Today Bonita is worried about the negative attention medical imaging has received lately. Patients increasingly come to her reluctant to receive necessary screenings because of the fear of receiving radiation.

    “I’m worried that all the negative attention is keeping patients away from lifesaving scans,” said Bonita. “At our medical center, like many others, we use the lowest amount of radiation possible to get a good image, and there are several national policies and standards in place to make sure that happens around the country. While we can always improve, patients should learn the right questions to ask their provider and not be reluctant to have a doctor-prescribed scan. It very well could save your life. Imaging definitely saved mine and I will be forever grateful. I have seen my then 12-year-old son graduate from high school and look forward to him accepting his Oscar for best actor in a motion picture.”

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