Cancer patients will have access to the latest treatment in radiotherapy, with significantly reduced side effects.
St George Hospital’s cancer care centre acquired new technology that oncologists said was a huge step forward for treating the disease.
This month it treated its first patient using stereotactic radiotherapy – used for brain metastases, or cancer that has spread to the brain.
It is delivered across one to five treatment sessions.
Radiation oncologist, Catherine Clark, who leads the neuro-oncology team, says the treatment is ideal for secondary cancers to the brain.
“Stereotactic radiotherapy is an accurate way of giving radiotherapy to small areas of the brain,” Dr Clark said.
“It uses very small x-ray beams, which enter from multiple angles.
“As we can direct the radiotherapy more precisely, the chance of controlling the tumour is increased while the amount of x-rays that pass through the healthy tissue is minimised.”
Although not a new type of radiotherapy, the treatment is a first for St George. Patients were previously being referred to the Royal Prince Alfred/Life House or Prince of Wales hospitals.
“This technology has been around for a while,” Dr Clark said.
“[But] we’ve been waiting about 18 months – we were really pushing for it.
“This machine is capable of delivering treatment much faster, which means less time on the bed for the patient.”
Benefits include fewer side effects such as less headaches, nausea, hair loss, and better memory function.
“The rewards are short and long term,” Dr Clark said.
“We’re trying to reduce the side effects so peoples’ quality of life is improved.”
Lisa Smith, 54, of Sans Souci, was the first to undergo the treatment at St George.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer, but cancerous cells developed in her brain.
“I had 17 months of chemotherapy and radiation, but it didn’t work on the brain,” she said.
“I’ll finish my sessions this week.
“It’s great because previously I was on six weeks of treatment so that’s a significant reduction in time.”