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Fine-Tuning Radiation Therapy: January 12, 2014

Radiation is a well established cancer killer. Problem is, it kills about everything in its path.

“The problem is that in order for radiation to get where it needs to go, it has to go through normal tissue. You want a treatment that’s able to give high doses of radiation but minimize toxicity to other tissues, surrounding tissues; that’s the ideal treatment delivery,” says Dr. Alan Brown, radiation oncologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Using the latest technology, doctors are now able to fine-tune radiation delivery and pick which one is right for which patient and which cancer.

“We’re able to treat almost anything. We could do conventional radiation for breast and prostate cancer patients. We could do a treatment called stereotactic radiation where we give focused dose of radiation either over single treatment or fewer than five treatments. We could do superficial treatments with it, so for patients with skin cancers we’re able to give electron radiation - so it has a whole gambit of things,” says Dr. Brown.

The most advanced radiotherapy devices not only focus on tumors, but can move around the body and hit them at every angle. Allowing for higher doses with fewer side affects.

“Once the patient is in position, this gantry can rotate around the patient. Radiation is delivered 360 degrees around the patient and the table moves in and out as the patient gets treatment,” says Dr. Brown.

The entire session can be wrapped in less than five minutes. These new tools are changing both cancer treatment and lives.

“Not only is curing important but minimizing long term damage to surrounding normal tissue is just as important because it effects quality of life,” says Dr. Brown.