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Image-Guided Therapy Gives Options to Cancer Patients Who Had None

A new radiation treatment technology that enables doctors to monitor any shift in the position of a tumor during treatment or from day to day is being used at South Nassau Communities Hospital to treat many complex malignant tumors with precise doses of radiation over the course of a treatment plan.

The new technology, Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) eliminates the uncertainty created by the shifts and changes in patients’ anatomy that can occur just before, as well as during, radiation therapy. IGRT allows radiation oncologists to generate a 3D image-set of the patient anatomy. The real-time imaging is performed to minimize geometric uncertainties in patients’ anatomy and make adjustments to the patient set-up during a radiation therapy session.

Unlike more conventional radiation therapies, the real-time imaging used in IGRT allows each radiation therapy treatment to be delivered to its intended site with pinpoint accuracy. “IGRT uses the radiotherapy beam that is used to treat the tumor to also produce a CT-like image of the patient,” said Edward Mullen, MD, Director of Radiation Oncology, co-Medical Director of the Long Island Gamma Knife® at South Nassau. “Essentially, this enables the clinician to ‘see inside’ the patient in real-time and deliver treatment at the most appropriate moment — thus improving treatment success and saving valuable time.” IGRT continuously assembles data collected throughout the course of a treatment plan to provide physicians with real-time reports that assess the effectiveness of the treatment. This allows the physicians to refine treatment techniques to adapt to changes that may occur during the course of treatment plan. Such changes include tumor shrinkage, expansion, or change in shape of the tumor and surrounding anatomy.

In addition to its precision, IGRT also reduces the intensity of side effects caused by radiation therapy. This includes dry mouth; weight- and hair-loss; dry, crusty skin; and fatigue and nausea.

IGRT is a perfect example of South Nassau’s leadership in providing patient-specific, targeted cancer treatment plans. South Nassau’s IGRT system integrates and automates all processes of treatment. This includes image acquisition, reconstruction of the area of treatment, assessment of the quality of the treatment, patient positioning, and clinical review.

According to the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology & Oncology, radiation in combination with other types of cancer treatment is used in the treatment of 70% of diagnosed cancers. Sometimes, radiation therapy is the only kind of cancer treatment patients need. Given in high doses, radiation kills or slows the growth of cancer cells. Radiation therapy is used to:

• Cure, stop, or slow the growth of cancer
• Alternatively, when a cure is not possible, radiation may be used to shrink cancer tumors in order to reduce pressure. Radiation therapy used in this way can treat problems such as pain, or it can prevent problems such as blindness or loss of bowel and bladder control.

“IGRT and the other advancements in radiation therapy that we use at South Nassau are giving our patients more options and more hope,” said Dr. Mullen.

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