Hope Radiation Cancer Center

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New Cancer Treatment Comes

New cancer treatment comes to Bay

RapidArc radiotherapy cuts treatment time, and patients say it's more ‘comfortable'
September 09, 2009 08:32:00 PM
By CHRIS SEGAL / News Herald Writer

PANAMA CITY — Steve Merritt had surgery in 2005 for prostate cancer.

During a regular checkup about six months ago, he learned the cancer was back. But thanks to a new piece of technology Bay Medical Center physicians unveiled Wednesday, Merritt is receiving better treatment.

“You don’t feel anything,” he said of the treatment, RapidArc radiotherapy. “It’s very comfortable.”

Merritt is one of about a dozen patients who have started radiation treatments with the new technology. Radiation treatments can be cut from 15 to 20 minutes to 90 seconds to 2 minutes, and physicians say those faster treatments also are more accurate. With conventional forms of radiation treatment, patients need to remain still for long periods of time.

“The patient has to be lying flat on the table for 20 minutes,” said Dr. Hasan Murshed, a radiation oncologist at Bay Medical. “As we breathe, organs move, so in 20 minutes time, that can make the treatment inaccurate.”

RapidArc radiotherapy delivers image-guided radiation in a single 360-degree rotation around a patient. The machine performs a CT scan before each treatment to target the correct location and provide intense radiation at the exact location of the cancer.

The machine, which hospital officials said is the only one within 200 miles of Bay County, is being used primarily to treat prostate cancer because of the difficulty in reaching the area blocked by the bladder and the rectum. The RapidArc also can be used to treat cancers of the brain, head, neck and breast, Murshed said.

The RapidArc rotates and uses CT images to create precise, real-time pictures that target the cancer. The machine shapes the radiation field to make sure each treatment is delivered as it should be, said Anna Clanton Smith, a medical physicist at Bay Medical Center. That allows doctors to create new treatment plans — using computer programs and each patient’s unique anatomy — to target the cancer and minimize the amount of radiation to surrounding healthy tissue.

“The side effects that were seen before are almost no more,” Murshed said.

Patients can need as many as 40 radiation treatments to eliminate cancerous tumors. The machine can handle 40 to 45 patients a day, Murshed said.

“We are very proud and honored to have this available,” Murshed said.