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Harrison Medical Center offers new radiation treatment for cancer care

Harrison Medical Center has upgraded its radiation oncology treatment equipment and software to provide physicians and patients with more choice in treating complicated cancers. RapidArc technology is a new form of image-guided, intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) that improves tumor targeting and shapes the radiation dose so that it conforms more closely to the three-dimensional shape of the tumor. This means more dose to the tumor and less to surrounding healthy tissue.

The treatment has been available at Harrison for several months, and required an upgrade to the linear accelerator equipment. It can be used for all types of cancer, and typically for more complicated cases.

“It’s a huge advance in IMRT. For us, it will eventually be the IMRT treatment most commonly used,” said Dr. Charles Springate, a radiation oncologist at Harrison.

As part of the cancer diagnosis, the medical team generates three-dimensional diagnostic images (usually CT or MRI) of the patient’s anatomy. These images are used to specify the dose of radiation needed to treat the tumor. In some cases, treatment planning includes a simulation session to further localize the cancer.

During a RapidArc treatment, the linear accelerator rotates around the patient to deliver the radiation from nearly every angle. The radiation is shaped and reshaped as it is continuously delivered from virtually every angle in a 360-degree revolution around the patient. Treatment during a 360-degree revolution takes less than two minutes.

The benefit to patients includes shorter treatment sessions — up to 85 percent shorter — from six or seven minutes to approximately one. Patients are immobilized for a shorter amount of time so there’s reduced discomfort due to reduced exposure to radiation. The technology can also mean cost-savings for the facility because of the shorter staffing time required.

“There’s virtually no downside to it,” Springate said. He noted that Harrison has several state-of-the-art technologies available for treatment of cancer. “Many places in Seattle don’t even have these,” he said.

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