For cancer patients with certain types of tumors, there’s a relatively new advanced radiation treatment that is now available at several medical facilities in the Hudson Valley. TomoTherapy targets a site much more effectively and cuts treatment time.
Developed by Thomas Rockwell “Rock” Mackie, Ph.D., a medical physicist, and other researchers at the University of Wisconsin about five years ago, TomoTherapy uses a combination of 3D images from CT imaging, special software and modulated radiation technology. The CT scan equipment — integrated into the radiation therapy machine — precisely locates the tumor, so that radiation beams can be conformed to the site, provide correct dosages, and avoid nearby healthy tissue and organs. Conventional radiation therapy machines deliver a wide beam of radiation from only a few angles; with TomoTherapy, radiation is delivered continuously from all angles around the patient. And, it features patented beam-modulating technology that divides a single beam into many smaller, narrow “beamlets.” “In the past radiation wasn’t targeted as well, which was a huge problem,” says Dr. Daniel E. Fass, who has treated certain cancerous tumors this way for the last four years at his WESTMED Medical Group in Rye.
When patients return for successive radiation treatments, daily CT scans show if the tumor has shrunk or moved and help to accurately position the patient, says Dr. Chika Madu, medical director for radiation oncology at the Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt Manor. “This allows us to adapt our treatment whenever necessary,” she says. HVHC started using the TomoTherapy unit late last year in its new Cheryl R. Lindenbaum Comprehensive Cancer Center. This center brings together all the hospital’s cancer services under one roof and assigns patients and family members a “navigator” — usually an RN with oncology experience — who helps educate them about the cancer process, from which tests will be ordered to how to eat better.
Types of cancer it can treat: TomoTherapy treatment is most suited for solid tumors found anywhere in the body, including the brain, breast, colon, abdomen, lung, prostate, head and neck, pelvis, spine, and some lymphomas, but not all lymphatic or blood tumors.
Length of treatment: Usually between 10 and 20 minutes.
Possible side effects: These depend on what body part is being treated but are fairly minimal, says Dr. Madu. “If it’s the breast, there may be some redness on the breast; if the prostate, there can be an increased urgency to urinate. But most side effects are temporary.”
Insurance coverage: Most carriers approve it, as they do traditional radiation.
Key questions to ask a physician: How many patients have you treated? “If it’s less than 100, you should be leery and go elsewhere,” says Dr. Fass.
More information: Visit www.tomotherapy.com
Hudson Valley Hospital Center Cortlandt Manor 914-293-8410, www.hvhc.org
Vassar Brothers Medical Center Poughkeepsie 845-454-8500; www.health-quest.org
WESTMED Medical Group Rye. 914-682-0700; www.westmedgroup.com