Radiation therapy needs to be powerful enough to kill cancer, but also contained, so that it doesn't damage healthy tissue. That's the purpose of the new linear accelerator radiation system at UPMC Altoona.
Thirty-four-year-old Amanda Mack is fighting cervical cancer. "I'm ready for this. I'm kicking it. I'm going to kick this cancer," she says with a smile.
This is the Belsano woman's seventh treatment with the hospital's new robotic linear accelerator. It combines a 4D imaging system with powerful high-resolution radiation.
Unlike other linear accelerators that reach only some parts of the body, this one has a wider range. Radiation oncologist Dr. Jack Schocker says, "this one really treats everything so we can treat head and neck cancers, brain tumors on that machine, breast cancer, something in the thoracic or chest cavity."
According to Dr. Schocker, the acclerator better sculpts the radiation fields around the tumor so that they're away from healthy tissues.
Before her first treatment Amanda was nervous, wondering if the radiation would be painful, but now she's at ease.
"I was scared at first that I would feel something, but you don't feel a thing, nothing at all, and it goes around and does it's thing and you're done, it's quick," she says.
The 4D imaging during treatment is designed to eliminate two significant problems in radiation therapy, movement of the internal organs and problems with the patient's positioning.
Amanda says,"I seen Dr. Shocker on Monday and he says he's already seen the results are working so that made me really happy."
Amanda's in line for a few more weeks of this therapy and she's keeping a positive attitude that the new treatment along with chemotherapy,will destroy her cancer.
"Now we have some extra resources we can pull from the UPMC Cancer Center that's now actively involved with our facility," Dr. Schocker says. And he added that the technology in the accelerator table alone makes the system a better cancer treatment.