Cutting edge radiation therapy machine switched on at Cairns Hospital

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Tablelands breast cancer patient Wendy Tagget after treatment in Liz Plummer Cancer Care Centre's new linear accelerator.

Tablelands breast cancer patient Wendy Tagget after treatment in Liz Plummer Cancer Care Centre's new linear accelerator.

A multi-million-dollar machine that can provide faster radiation treatment to cancer patients has been installed at Cairns Hospital.

Earlier this week, staff at Icon’s radiation oncology centre located in the Liz Plummer Cancer Care Centre switched on the first of two new Varian TrueBeam linear accelerators, each valued at about $4 million.

A new second unit is planned to be operational at the centre in early 2023, with the machines to replace existing equipment with more technologically advanced gear.

Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service’s clinical director of cancer care, Dr Lisa Capelle, said the machines will be used to treat small, well-defined tumours or high-risk postoperative areas, including both primary and metastatic (sometimes referred to as secondary) tumours.

'These are tumours that have spread from other organs in the body and cancers in the brain, spine, bones, liver and lung,' she said.

'This cutting-edge technology allows a high dose of radiation to be delivered to the tumour very precisely, without compromising surrounding healthy organs due to the ability to treat with sub- millimetre accuracy, in a process called stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT).

'Due to the larger daily doses of radiation delivered to patients with SRT, treatments can be completed within a single treatment, or multiple treatments spanning over 2-10 days.'

Icon Cancer Centre’s site manager Brock Ditton said the linear accelerators were equipped with surface-guided radiation therapy, to help ensure accurate treatment delivery.

'This means some of our patients won’t need tattoos or other permanent marks, reminding them of their cancer journeys,' he said.

'The new machines are also more accurate.

'The new robotic couch with 6 degrees of freedom improves target positioning for high-dose stereotactic treatments, allowing the expansion of our current SRT offering, including the introduction of SRT brain and spine, along with stereotactic ablative radiation therapy (SABR) liver and prostate treatments.'

He said each daily treatment would take no longer than 15 minutes, giving the centre capacity to deliver 9,000 radiation therapy treatments annually to cancer patients.

'Having a faster treatment available to our patients means we are able to reduce the need for patients to travel away from home for treatments in Townsville or Brisbane,' he said.

Tablelands breast cancer patient Wendy Tagget was the first person to be treated by the machine earlier this week, enjoying a view of sea turtles swimming across the sea surface, that has been installed as a skylight into the ceiling.

'It was a good experience, and comfortable,' Ms Tagget said.

'The staff are wonderful, and just made everything so easy.'