Cancer treatment brings hope

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A new radiotherapy treatment at the Nepean Cancer Care Centre (NCCC) is bringing new hope for lung cancer patients who are ineligible for surgery.

Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Vreeken is just one of the NCCC patients that has benefited from Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) lung. Having recently completed her course of treatment, Betty reflected on what this treatment option has meant for her.

“For the first time in seven months, I’m feeling much better. I’ve found the treatment very, very good. Only having to have four sessions instead of 15 to 30 has made a huge difference,” she said.

Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) is being applied at NCCC to treat patients with early lung cancers and pulmonary metastases (other cancers that have spread to the lung).

This treatment is accurate and convenient, having much better local control and possible survival benefits compared to traditional lung cancer radiotherapy.

SBRT treatment takes only four days instead of the month long treatment schedule required with traditional therapy and the outcomes appear to be similar to surgery, meaning that patients who are not able to have surgery can access a curative treatment with good outcomes.

“A large proportion of lung cancer patients are elderly and frail and can’t tolerate surgery. Previously, these patients had very poor treatment outcomes but SBRT lung is offering a comparable and convenient option to surgery for these people,” explained Dr Roland Yeghiaian-Alvandi, Lung Cancer Specialist and Radiation Oncologist.

For Betty, it’s not just the new radiotherapy treatment at NCCC that has made the difference, but the exceptional efforts of staff that has made her time at the Centre as pleasant as possible.

“The team at Nepean Cancer Care Centre has been marvellous. I was apprehensive at first but the whole team is so helpful. That’s a big part of it, you know, having good doctors and clinicians around who’ve made me feel comfortable,” she said.

While SBRT is available at centres throughout Australia, staff at NCCC are the first in Australia to apply SBRT lung with an innovative technique called volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT).

“VMAT delivers a whole volume dose and ensures treatment precision to spare normal healthy tissues around the treatment area,” explained Dr Yeghiaian-Alvandi.

“The precision and dosage allowable through combining SBRT and VMAT means patients can get a curative dose with minimal side-effects and in a very short treatment time – 30 minutes as opposed to 60 minutes.”

It’s the innovative treatments and highly skilled specialists at the NCCC that has made the facility a reference site for other centres in Australia, hosting visits from a number of hospitals, including St George Hospital, North Coast Cancer Institute and Townsville Radiation Oncology.

“Our work on VMAT has been presented at a national level and will be presented at international conferences this year. We’re also expanding this treatment onto other sites, making world-best and innovative treatment available to the people of Western Sydney,” said Dr Yeghiaian-Alvandi.

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