New ra­dio­ther­apy ma­chine a first

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By JIM CHIPP

Welling­ton’s some­times-strained cancer ser­vices have taken a ma­jor stride for­ward with the de­liv­ery of a new ra­dio­ther­apy ma­chine, the first of its kind in Aus­trala­sia.

Cap­i­tal & Coast District Health Board ra­di­a­tion on­col­ogy ser­vices clin­i­cal leader Carol John­son said the Var­ian Truebeam ra­dio­ther­apy lin­ear ac­cel­er­a­tor would al­low more so­phis­ti­cated treat­ment for some can­cers and im­proved ef­fi­ciency for most.

The $5 mil­lion ma­chine was de­liv­ered to Welling­ton Hos­pi­tal on Satur­day, to re­place a 14-yearold ma­chine than had de­liv­ered more than 100,000 treat­ments.

Dr John­son said the new ma­chine of­fered bet­ter-qual­ity, lower-en­ergy com­put­erised to­mog­ra­phy (CT) scan­ning, which can more ac­cu­rately di­rect ra­di­a­tion treat­ment, while ex­pos­ing pa­tients to lower lev­els of scan­ning ra­di­a­tion.

It has bet­ter op­tions of treat­ment beams, al­low­ing the ra­di­a­tion to be fo­cused on a tightly de­scribed area, re­duc­ing the num­ber of treat­ments needed and min­imis­ing dam­age to sur­round­ing tis­sue.

‘‘What it will al­low us to do is to treat peo­ple in a more com­plex fash­ion, in a more com­plex way, with­out the same im­pact on wait times.’’

How­ever, these are spe­cialised ap­pli­ca­tions usu­ally used for liver cancer, sec­ondary brain cancer or small pri­mary lung tu­mours, Dr John­son said.

The new ma­chine’s imag­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties will also of­fer very mod­est, but im­por­tant gains in the unit’s day-to-day ac­tiv­i­ties.

‘‘When you are treat­ing lots and lots of pa­tients these small gains add up.’’

Ev­ery year, 1300 pa­tients re­ceive about 20,000 ra­di­a­tion treat­ments at Welling­ton Hos­pi­tal and ra­di­a­tion treat­ment rates have grown by 23 per cent in the past four years.

There are 68 of the new ma­chines in the world, with an­other 220 on or­der.

Dr John­son said that there would be a few weeks of dis­rup­tion while the linac was in­stalled and com­mis­sioned, and the re­main­ing two ma­chines would run for longer each day to main­tain ser­vices.

The six-tonne United-States-built ma­chine had to be floated into the hos­pi­tal on hov­er­craft.

It is ‘‘ plug-and-play’’, in that it has been de­signed to fit straight onto the old ma­chine’s base, us­ing the same plumb­ing, elec­tri­cal and in­stru­ment con­nec­tions.

Photo: JIM CHIPP

Leader of the pack: Ra­di­a­tion on­col­o­gist Carol John­son is de­lighted the board’s new ra­dio­ther­apy ma­chine has ar­rived.

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