Cancer will affect a majority of people during their lifetime. This is one of the most frightening conditions to have diagnosed. Thankfully now we are much better equipped as a society to deal with the problem.
Diagnostic techniques have improved so that we can make earlier intervention to attempt cure. Treatment may involve surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. Radiation therapy will be experienced by up to 60% of all patients. This may be curative in its own right or may be part of a wider overall package. It may also be used as part of a palliative care regimen where it will relieve pain.
In the Hermitage Medical Clinic we are lucky not only to have the full range of conventional linear accelerators and brachytherapy. We also have the only CyberKnife on the island of Ireland. This is an extraordinary machine. It is a treatment machine, a linear accelerator on the end of a robot. This is linked to a treatment planning unit. This is where all the scans MRI and CT are fused and studied. The plan is constructed by doctors and clinical scientists with physics backgrounds. This is fed through to the treatment unit. The unique feature is the tracking of a moving target such as a lung or prostate. The robot is programmed to stay focused on the target. If the pattern of movement changes the machine switches off. It will recalibrate in the case of a lung tumour then resume provided it is happy with the accuracy. This means that the accuracy of a treatment is 0.3 mms. This means we can treat volumes down to 30mm3 with complete confidence. The machine unlike any other is constantly checking its accuracy and correcting against the plan. It is a closed system. The therapists are also monitoring to ensure accuracy as we need to be certain. The CyberKnife unit is used to treat cancer of the lung. Here the patient is able to breath normally during the treatment. The treatment because we avoid normal tissue is delivered in 5 days other than 5-6 weeks.
Prostate cancer is also treated though here we have to insert tiny gold seeds into the gland prior to planning. The robot focuses on these while it does its work following the movement of the gland. 5 days remains the total length of the treatment as opposed to between 4-8 weeks on conventional radiotherapy.
When we are treating tumours in the brain or base of skull we may be giving a single dose only. These tumours may be malignant or benign. Benign may take longer to respond because of slow cell turnover. We also treat trigeminal neuralgia. This is an extremely debilitating condition involving severe facial pain. A single exposure may relieve the pain entirely allowing the patient to come off medication and lead a normal life.
For further information please see www.hermitageclinic.ie or contact our CyberKnife & Radiotherapy Dept at