Healthwise: Precision Radiation Treatment

By: Cheryn Stone Email
By: Cheryn Stone Email

March 17, 2010

In this week's Martha Jefferson Healthwise, CBS19's Cheryn Stone highlights a high-tech cancer treatment that's improving outcomes for some patients.

The machine, which sports a glorified digital camera and an image panel for x-rays, offers a different way of thinking about radiation treatment. The procedure, Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy, accurately delivers a high dose of radiation to a very small target.

"With the new technology, we now have the confidence to know we are treating that area precisely," said Chief Medical Physicist, David Waid.

The patient lies is what is essentially a form-fitting cast, which works to keep them still for the entire procedure.

"There is very little movement so we can get down to the millimeter level with precision and immobilization," said Dr. Cynthia Spaulding, a Radiation Oncologist.

The new machine and high-tech tool marks a shift the way cancer patients are treated by potentially shortening the length of treatment and avoiding a trip to the operating room.

"We can offer potentially curative therapy with patients with Metastasis because you're giving a high dose to a very small volume, and it's not requiring invasive surgery," said Dr. Spaulding.

The advancement is welcomed news for patients too sick for surgery and those fighting early lung cancer, or cancer of the liver or spine.

"In patients with spinal tumors, often they have had previous radiation in the past to treat these areas at conventional doses, and there was really nothing more to do if the cancer came back. Now, we are able to go in with this extremely precise, focused radiation and treat very effectively, so they don't have a problem there any more," said Dr. Spaulding.

This effective new treatment means problems are eliminated with less invasive procedures. And if you think of this machine as a glorified digital camera, the results make for a very pretty picture.

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