The mantra for surviving cancer is early detection. Medical research has shown that in certain cancers the survival rate can be as high as 90 percent if caught in time.

The key to early detection is screening, such as mammography and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) combined with CT X-ray scans, or PET/CT scans. But many people don’t have the insurance or the money to pay for these expensive procedures, which means that their chances of surviving cancer are severely diminished. However, there is help.

Howard University Hospital has partnered with a local PET/CT imaging technology center, Metro Region PET Center, to provide free, lifesaving cancer scans to patients without insurance.

So far, the center has provided more than $700,000 worth of free scans for Howard University Hospital (HUH) patients, said Dr. Robert Williams, an attending physician and professor in the Department of Community and Family Medicine at the Howard University College of Medicine and Howard University Hospital.

“It’s a beautiful community, private partnership,” Williams said. “Not a week goes by without these (scans).”

The PET/CT scans are the “definitive imaging study,” Williams said. They provide detailed images that help doctors determine whether an abnormality may be cancer. PET scans allow doctors to detect tumors that may not be visible through MRI and ultrasound scans, and emit a lower radiation dose than those tests.

HUH provides transportation for patients to and from the Metro Region Center. The approximate cost is $1,500 per study, and according to Williams, at least 500 patients have benefited from this service since the partnership began in 2004.

Medicaid patients are covered for some forms of cancer, including lung, breast, colorectal, esophageal and cervical cancers. Metro Region prides itself on being a center that provides services to all patients, regardless of their finances, said Debby Clark, a representative from the company.

“Howard is one of the largest referrers to our Chevy Chase location,” Clark said. “We want to be able to help out the community, and there is such a large amount of patients from Howard who don’t qualify for Medicare, and we wanted to help them out.”

Williams praised partnership and hoped that Howard Hospital will have an even closer bond with Metro Region in the future.

“This is an important Howard partnership in bringing the latest technology to our patients,” he said.

For more information on the Metro Region PET center, contact Mo Nieves at 703-867-3353 or via e-mail at, or visit 

Amber Ravenell

Howard University News Service