More access to cutting edge radiation therapy

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Dr Jonathon Hutton sitting in radiation treatment room.

Dr Jonathon Hutton sitting in radiation treatment room.

More Far North Queensland patients are able to access a cutting-edge treatment for lung cancer, with the recruitment of a new specialist doctor at Cairns Hospital.

Stereotactic Ablative Radiation (SABR) is an advanced technique used to treat small, well-defined tumours such as early-stage lung cancers in patients that are not suitable for or not wanting to have invasive surgery.

The radiation therapy delivers pinpoint precision radiation to individual tumours, ensuring safe and effective treatment directly to the tumour, while minimising radiation dose to surrounding healthy organs and tissue.

Dr Jonathon Hutton, who moved from Darwin to Cairns earlier this year, recently treated his first patient with SABR at Icon Cancer Centre Cairns (Liz Plummer), located on-site at the Liz Plummer Cancer Care Centre.

The radiation oncologist said having local specialists with the support of highly qualified radiotherapists and medical physicists who are able to provide SABR treatment in Cairns meant patients would not need to travel to Townsville nor Brisbane for this cutting-edge treatment.

‘It’s great that we are able to offer this treatment to our patients,’ he said.

‘It enables them to complete their treatment in just a couple of weeks, otherwise they would require several weeks of daily radiation which can have a significant physical and emotional impact on them.

‘It also frees up resources for the hospital.

‘Instead of up to 30 treatments over 6 weeks, which is typical of conventional radiation treatment for lung cancer, we can usually complete lung SABR with just 4 treatment sessions.

‘Furthermore, using this technique we expect to see excellent results, achieving a long-term cure in up to 90% of our patients. Pleasingly, it is also very well tolerated, with patients typically experiencing less side effects compared to conventional radiotherapy.’

Lung cancer is among Far North Queensland’s most commonly diagnosed cancers, according to the Cancer Council Queensland, with nearly 170 new cases diagnosed in the region each year.

There are approximately 119 deaths in the region from lung cancer each year, with 80 per cent of deaths recorded in people under the age of 80.

Lung cancer rates across the region are about nearly double the amount in men compared to women.

While new therapies are being used to treat lung cancer, Dr Hutton said preventative measures such as changing your lifestyle reduced the risk of developing lung cancer.

‘Quitting smoking is a really important step in reducing this risk,’ he said.

‘While there are many factors that can contribute to lung cancer, we do know that smoking is the leading cause, with an estimated 80 per cent of all lung cancer cases in Queensland attributable to smoking.

‘Quitting smoking not only reduces your risk of cancer, but also helps you get fitter and healthier overall.’

The Adelaide-trained Dr Hutton, who has completed a post-doctoral research fellowship at Harvard University, said he loved living and working in the tropics.

‘This is a beautiful part of the world, and my family and I love the great outdoorsy lifestyle’ he said.

‘So, when a job opportunity came up in Cairns, I jumped at it.

‘It was very much a lifestyle decision for us, and we have been loving working and living up here ever since.’