Written by SMH Copywriter Phil Lederer
Whether used as primary or post-operative treatment, radiation therapy disarms cancer’s primary method of attack: uncontrolled growth.
Using high-energy X-rays, radiation oncology targets tumors or the areas where surgically removed tumors once were. The radiation affects the DNA of the cancer cells and keeps them from dividing further.
“If we can reduce the cells’ ability to duplicate and divide, we can essentially curb the growth or eradicate the growth of the cancer cells,” explained Dr. Kunal Saigal, a radiation oncologist with Florida Cancer Specialists who leads the team at Sarasota Memorial’s new Radiation Oncology Center.
Delivering the cancer cells safely and effectively requires extreme accuracy and precision. Dr. Saigal’s team relies on Varian TrueBeam linear accelerators to accomplish this.
Cutting-edge Radiation Oncology Technology
Varian TrueBeam is the gold standard in linear accelerators, said Dr. Saigal. “It’s a flagship machine for radiation oncology and a lot of technology in one package.”
Versatile without sacrificing efficiency or precision, the innovative Varian TrueBeam linear accelerator allows radiation oncology teams to provide multiple types of therapies in one place — including radiosurgery.
Sophisticated imaging software is integrated into the same machine that delivers the radiation therapy, allowing pinpoint accuracy in that delivery. Patient position can be adjusted remotely, by even minute amounts, to really optimize targeting and streamline treatment.
Radiation in Cancer Treatment
Radiation therapy typically falls into three broad use categories:
Primary treatment — Some cancers are treated with radiation therapy alone and no surgery. This is common for cervical cancers, head and neck cancers, and some lung or prostate cancers.
Post-operative treatment — When used as a supplement to surgical removal of a cancer, low-dose radiation is directed at the tumor bed and excision site to treat any potential microscopic remains of the cancer. This is also called “adjuvant therapy,” and it is sometimes used to help treat breast cancers, gastrointestinal cancers, and some lung or head and neck cancers.
Palliation — If a cancer has progressed too far or if comorbidities preclude remission or other treatments, radiation therapy can be used to reduce tumors in order to relieve pain or improve quality of life. This can be an option for some brain or bone cancers.
The Patient’s Experience
For the patient, the TrueBeam’s features translate to a better overall experience: Less healthy tissue is affected by the radiation, so there are fewer side effects; treatment sessions are faster because staff no longer have to re-enter the room and manually adjust the patient time and time again.
“Through the combination of accuracy of the imaging and the ability to position the patient remotely, we can deliver very accurate radiation therapy,” said Dr. Saigal. “That means we don’t have to treat as much normal tissue around the tumor or tumor bed to make sure we’re not missing the target area.”
While radiation therapy has long been associated with significant, undesirable side effects, today’s advanced technology and leading-edge equipment, like the True Beam, have greatly reduced the prevalence and severity of radiation side effects.
“Radiation is really not what it used to be,” Dr. Saigal said. “We’ve undergone a major revolution in how treatments are delivered because the technology has improved so much and the accuracy is so much better. Now, the likelihood of serious side effects developing has reduced considerably.”
In the event a patient does struggle with any side effect, treatments can be adjusted. At Sarasota Memorial’s Radiation Oncology Center, radiation therapists and nursing staff meet with patients on a weekly basis to monitor side effects and develop ways to mitigate any that may arise.
Radiation Oncology at Sarasota Memorial
When Sarasota Memorial Cancer Institute opens the doors to its new Radiation Oncology Center on Aug. 3, it will provide area residents greater access to comprehensive cancer treatment than ever before. The center, located on University Parkway, is the institute’s first step in multi-stage expansion of its oncology program and facilities.
“We want to deliver the most cutting edge, evidence-based radiation oncology treatments available,” Dr. Saigal said. “This is just the beginning.”
Equipped with two True Beam linear accelerators and designed to deliver personalized care for patients’ physical and emotional wellbeing, the center is staffed by a multi-disciplinary team of medical experts led by Dr. Saigal.
Cancer Care Beyond Treatment
Cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship can take an enormous toll on a patient’s overall wellbeing, not just the body. And Sarasota Memorial Radiation Oncology Center’s patient-first design purposefully addresses the full experience.
The center features an abundance of natural light and welcoming spaces, as well as a Serenity Patio with soothing water features and a garden where patients and loved ones can relax in a natural setting. An onsite resource room centralizes patient access to counseling services, nutrition consultation and other support services.
“We’re focused on patient wellbeing and the emotional experience just as much as the physical experience,” Dr. Saigal said. “This is a very challenging time for individuals, and we need to make sure that we’re able to provide them with the compassion, understanding and empathy that they deserve.
“We want patients to feel that warmth from the moment they walk in.”
For more information about the Sarasota Memorial Radiation Oncology Center at University Parkway, click here or call 941-917-7575.
Radiation at Sarasota Memorial
External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT 3D Conformal Therapy) — Precision radiation beams are aimed at the tumor from multiple directions, carefully aligned to match the shape and size of the tumor, and to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.
Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) — A form of 3D conformal therapy, IMRT allows the radiation oncologist to modify the strength of individual radiation beams so that stronger doses can be aimed at different parts of the tumor.
Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) — A form of 3D conformal therapy that uses imaging scans between each treatment, IGRT allows the radiation oncologist to adjust patient position and beam focus for a highly responsive treatment process.
Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) — Instead of traditional surgery, SRS uses a high dose of ablative radiation to effectively destroy a cancerous tumor without incision or physical intrusion. This can be used to treat tumors in sensitive areas, such as the brain.
As a Sarasota Memorial copywriter and wordsmith, local journalist Philip Lederer crafts a variety of external communications for the healthcare system. He earned his Master’s degree in Public Administration and Political Philosophy from Morehead State University, Ky.