The Leah M. Fitch Cancer Center at Comanche County Memorial Hospital has new technology that can target smaller tumors, potentially curing a patient of cancer. The new linear accelerator provides stereotactic ablative radiotherapy, a type of radiation therapy in which high doses of radiation are delivered to small, well-defined tumors. The goal is to deliver a dose that is high enough to kill the cancer.
“We’re able to treat areas of the body,” Radiation Oncologist Doctor Leann Smith said. “Eloquent areas such as the lung, the brain, pancreas, areas of the spine that we can treat tumors, and we can do a very safe treatment to where we don’t expose other parts of the body to radiation.”
Dr. Smith and Dr. Michael Kerley are both radiation oncologists and certified to administer this procedure. Doctor Kerley said the new technology makes it where they can treat people here in southwest Oklahoma, who need this treatment, rather than sending them somewhere else.
“You can get people cured even when they can’t go through surgery with lung cancer,” Dr. Kerley said. “You can get people with liver involvement with a tumor that may be cured even though they may not be healthy enough to go through surgery.”
The first use of the machine was to treat three brain tumors.
“We did it in 30 minutes,” Dr. Smith said. “And we did one treatment of stereotactic radiosurgery treatment, and the patient handled it very well.”
Dr. Smith said, with the options they had before getting this new machine, it would’ve taken somewhere between 10 to 20 treatments.
“With that modality of treatment, the entire brain would’ve been treated,” Dr. Smith said.
“Which has some side effects,” Dr. Kerley said. “Including loss of memory and cognitive ability, but the tumor also causes, so it was kinda a double whammy for those people, but if you don’t treat it, they bleed, and eventually the patient dies quickly.”
But, with this technology, they’re able to treat just the tumor.
“So, all the surrounding normal brain is saved and doesn’t have radiation,” Dr. Smith said.
While it helps to target specific areas, that isn’t always what a patient needs. Doctor Smith said it depends on the type of cancer and location.
“Sometimes, it’s better for a patient if we go slower and gentler,” Dr. Smith said. “And we can use our other accelerator that we’ve had and give a slower and gentler treatment. Sometimes treatment is better it’s a very focused, high dose treatment, and that’s where this new machine comes into play.”
In the end, it doesn’t matter which machine is being used, it’s all about trying to cure cancer.
“It’s really satisfying and gratifying if you’re a physician if I can take somebody in horrible pain and the next day make them better,” Dr. Kerley said.
Dr. Kerley said they plan on getting more technology in the future that will make it where they can electronically move the table the patient is laying on, which will speed up the process even more.