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Newer Technologies for Cancer Treatment

Radiation Oncologist

The treatment of cancer has advanced in leaps and bounds over the last few years – be it newer and safer drugs for chemotherapy, adjuvant therapy or medical technology for precise delivery of radiation therapy.

Speaking about radiation therapy, or even chemotherapy for that matter, the most important thing that doctors focus on is to weigh the benefits of the therapy against the adverse effects on normal body tissue. It is a known fact that all forms of radiation therapy can cause some or the other adverse effects on normal tissues. Loss of hair during treatment of neck cancers, urinary system issues during treatment of the lower abdomen area, dental problems during treatment of head and neck cancers, etc. are several adverse effects usually faced by patients. Some of these effects are permanent or long term while some others may be transient.

The focus, therefore, while developing new technology for treatment of cancer, has been on how to reduce the adverse effects to the normal tissue. In this endeavour, one such advancement in radiation therapy is the TruBeamStx system from Varian Medical System. TruBeam is an FDA approved radiation therapy device that has been developed with the intent of improving patient experience while killing the cancer and sparing normal tissues.

Conventionally, radiation therapy is a time consuming process and takes a toll on the patient. Imagine trying to maintain focus of a thin beam of light on a tennis ball that is bouncing up and down. Radiation therapy requires precision way beyond what you just tried to do. Organs and systems in our body move with every breath we take. Tumours also move with every breath we take. Every cell in the body is vital and performs a certain function. So, in the effort to kill the cancer or tumour cells in a body that is constantly moving at some level or the other, normal cells also get damaged. This is what results in the adverse effects seen after radiation therapy.

The thing about TruBeam is that it is designed to administer radiation therapy fast, at higher doses with more energy and precision. It rotates around the patient and can deliver the radiation dose at literally any angle. It is capable of targeting the tumour tissue alone and sparing the normal tissue around the tumour notwithstanding normal body movements. In short, this system provides endless opportunity to the Radiation Oncologist to plan treatment of complex cancers in a very short duration with precision. It makes the treatment sessions as comfortable and short as possible especially for elders and children. There are a few hospitals in India today with the TruBeamStx machine.

Another therapy making the rounds is the Proton Therapy considered as one of the most advanced and targeted cancer treatment due to its superior dose distribution and fewer side effects. It can more precisely localise the radiation dose. There are few Proton Therapy Centres outside the USA with China, Korea and Japan in Asia so far.

Having said this, we must however realize that radiation therapy may not be suitable for all cancers or for all patients. Your doctor is the best person to advice the patient on the various options available for treatment of cancer.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any governmental/other agency. This article contains facts that have been obtained from reliable sources, but may be subject to change with time. The author will not be responsible in any way for the comments given by readers.

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