A cancer diagnosis requires a multitude of important decision-making for patients and their families. From choosing an oncologist and surgeon, to understanding risk/benefits of chemo treatments, radiation therapy and many other considerations, often leaves patients feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.
One important area of treatment that many cancer patients face is understanding and navigating radiation therapy. As the Chief of Urology at Saint Clare’s Health, Dr Lawrence Friedman leads a team that is on the cutting edge of various treatments for cancer. This includes the use of advanced technology for radiation therapy that allows patients and their physicians greater choice for individualizing their treatment.
At Saint Clare’s Health, the most advanced radiation technology available, is delivered by TrueBeam. This technology offers the greatest advantage to individualize treatment plans based upon the patients’ lifestyle or the time patients can devote to treatments, as well as assess the risks/benefits.
“TrueBeam is an advanced, cutting-edge radiation therapy system that delivers a concentrated beam of radiation therapy to tumors in the body,” Friedman said. “It combines patient imaging, beam delivery and sophisticated motion management in order to precisely and accurately target tumors,” stated Dr. Friedman. “There are many benefits that are just not offered in standard radiation therapy, and the most important is that of time.”
Standard radiation therapy is known as intensity modulated radiation therapy. This type of therapy usually involves 45 treatments spread out over nine weeks. Another alternative is cyberknife treatment, which is performed via five treatment sessions done in just one week.
The most important differences between cyberknife and intensity modulated radiation therapy is time, as well as the risk/benefits. “What we’re talking about with standard radiation therapy is multiple small slices of a treatment pie that add up to the total dose of what is needed. Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin you have cyberknife treatment, where you have much bigger slices of the pie in which you dish out the same total amount of radiation. You can understand from a lifestyle perspective the potential advantages of getting treatment done faster. However, there is an increased risk of side effects when you’re squeezing all of that radiation treatment into just one week,” explains Friedman.
TrueBeam offers the possibility of achieving effective cancer treatment that allows for a middle ground between standard radiation therapy and cyberknife treatment. “It gives us the way to provide for a time sweet spot of two to three weeks where the patient avoids increased side effects and also saves time,” Friedman said. “It provides the flexibility to tailor the therapy to the patient’s wishes, their lifestyle, and their overall health. It’s a superior option.”
The TrueBeam technology, a linear accelerator, which is non-invasive and pain-free, moves around the patient and can target tumors from nearly any angle, allowing the physician to deliver a prescribed dose of radiation to hard-to-reach tumors. It does this by attacking the tumor using a three-dimensional approach. The precision of the TrueBeam technology is measured in increments of less than a millimeter.
Friedman explains, “The sophisticated architecture of the TrueBeam machine synchronizes the way patients are positioned within the imaging motion machine along with the way the treatment beams deliver healing doses, even accounting for the movement created by the patient’s breathing. The combined treatment process is monitored every ten seconds throughout the procedure in order to maintain precise targeting on the tumor in question. It’s truly a marvel of medical architecture that helps to minimize the side effects of radiation therapy while targeting the cancer very effectively.”
Friedman also underscored the concept that Saint Clare’s Health, a community hospital, entire approach is delivering high-quality and compassionate care. At a time when healthcare can seem to be dominated by monolithic impersonal institutions, one of Saint Clare’s points of pride is that the use of technology, such as TrueBeam, demonstrates that while the hospital offers the convenience of being located around the corner, it is also ahead of the curve.
“We’re offering people the same state-of-the-art therapy in their own backyard that they are going to find at any major academic or medical center anywhere else in the area,” Friedman said. “People should also know that the TrueBeam technology can be used for almost any cancer out there. And again, you don’t have to go far to get that kind of wide-ranging and effective care.”
In summary, Friedman emphasizes that no one department alone at Saint Clare’s is behind the most effective care for cancer. Instead, the entire hospital takes on the responsibility together to tackle cancer treating each patient as family and developing the most advanced state-of-the-art treatment plan.
“As with most cancer therapy, we take a team approach. You have to have a collaborative approach against cancer. We work diligently to make an uncomfortable situation as comfortable as possible,” Friedman said. “It’s not just the urologist or the oncologist fighting together with our patients to beat cancer. It’s the technicians, the nurses, and the support staff that all come together to make it happen. Together, we are dedicated to give the patient a positive experience and a good outcome against cancer.”
For more information about cancer radiation therapy at Saint Clare’s Health, please call Saint Clare’s Health Center for Cancer Care at 973-983-7300, or visit www.saintclare’s health.com.