It’s a device that medical staff at Sky Ridge Medical Center have dubbed ‘the cancer crusher.’
Technically, the device is called a linear accelerator. It’s basically a doctor-controlled robot. It allows doctors to treat various cancers and tumors – and that’s it. This means doctors are able to avoid attacking healthy cells, making sure the body doesn’t receive unneeded radiation. It is highly specialized and focuses radiation treatments only on the spot that needs to be treated.
“The whole role (of the machine) is to get that dose of radiation to that specific area we want to treat and avoid the normal tissue,” says Carter Ellenson, the Radiation Oncology Manager at Sky Ridge Medical Center.
Oncologists say the machine also allows for what they call ‘better motion management,’ so if a patient moves around during treatment they won’t end up feeling the harmful effects of radiation.
"More accuracy, better motion management, to better watch that patient throughout the whole treatment and make sure there's no variation and movement and making sure that radiation and dose is going exactly where we want it to go."
Ellenson says thanks to developing technology, radiation treatment keeps getter better and better. He says the new machine at Sky Ridge Medical Center is so highly specialized and accurate, it can actually cut down the number of treatments a cancer patient may need. It also helps decrease harmful side effects that can come with radiation treatment.
It takes about 19 people to operate the machine – including nurses, doctors, therapists, and oncologists.
Staff is being trained on the machine next week, and patients will be able to use the machine in November. The machine specializes in treating cancers of the head and brain, as well as the lungs, but Ellenson says it can also be used for any type of cancer – depending on the treatment plan determined by the patient and their medical team.