Bronson Battle Creek cancer center offers new therapy

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October 01, 2013

If you have cancer and radiation therapy is recommended, how does the treatment avoid damaging nearby healthy tissues when you are trying to kill cancer cells?  Bronson Battle Creek’s Cancer Care Center may have the answer.  It is called stereotactic body radiation therapy or SBRT for short.


SBRT is currently used to treat small, early-stage tumors in the lungs, liver, and spinal column.  Because it can be aimed so carefully, it can target the tumor and not the normal tissue.  In many cases, this type of therapy is as good or better than other traditional procedures. 


From the patient’s point of view, SBRT has fewer side effects because the treatment area is generally smaller, and the therapy is delivered with pinpoint accuracy.  This therapy can also be split up and given over a one- to two-week period instead of one big dose at a time, which can be harder on the patient.


If a patient is a candidate for SBRT, before the therapy begins, treatment planning is done.  Imaging techniques map the exact location of the tumor to be treated.  From that, a customized treatment plan is developed so that the computerized radiation beams can do their work.


One of the things that make SBRT so effective is its high degree of accuracy when the radiation beam is aimed at the tumor.  But, since our bodies do not remain still all of the time, you might wonder if there is a chance that the beam could hit non-cancerous cells. 


Let’s look at a lung tumor for example.  As the patient breathes, the lungs fill with air, which in turn move the body and the tumor.  If the treatment was given at the same time the tumor moved, it could miss the cancer and attack healthy tissue.


Enter SBRT.  This technology can reduce, block, or even stop the radiation beam so it is less apt to strike healthy cells.  When the tumor moves back into view, the beam begins again and delivers the exact dose of radiation to the targeted areas. 


Additional images are taken during the treatments to account for the tumor shrinkage or other changes that might affect its position.  Careful treatment planning and image-guided delivery are what make SBRT so successful.


Often, a surgeon can remove small tumors in the lung.  But for some patients unable to undergo surgery because of other medical problems, SBRT can be the answer.


“I think one of the real positives for this type of treatment is our improved accuracy,” said Dr. Randy Mudge, medical director of radiation oncology at Bronson Battle Creek Cancer Care Center.  “The precision connected with SBRT helps us limit the dose of radiation to normal tissue around a tumor, thus helping reduce side effects for our patients.  We place a high priority on our patients’ safety and comfort.”


Stereotactic body radiation therapy is not for every patient.  Important considerations are the type of cancer the patient has, where it is located, and her or his physical condition.  Please talk with your Bronson Battle Creek radiation oncologist about whether SBRT is suitable for you and what kinds of side effects may result from your treatment.


If you would like more information about the many programs offered at the Bronson Battle Creek Cancer Care Center, call (269) 245-8660 or visit http://www.bronsonhealth.com/locations/bronson-battle-creek-hospital/cancer-care-at-bronson-battle-creek-hospital.