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Linear Accelerator: Targeting Tumors

Detroit Medical Center’s linear accelerator pinpoints cancer radiation treatment, targeting tumors and sparing healthy tissue.

"I woke up to get ready to go to work, and I was paralyzed on my left side. I don’t remember much of that day, but I had emergency brain surgery, and then another surgery the next day. When the pathology report came back, they told me I had cancer."

Rick Broadrick underwent surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, and then it was time fro chemotherapy and radiation. He met with Dr. Kimberly Hart, Clinical Chief of the Department of radiation Oncology at DMC Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital, to discuss his radiation options.

Dr. Hart and her team are using revolutionary new technology, called a "linear accelerator" to deliver radiation to cancer patients.

In order to create radiation, we accelerate electrons, using microwaves through a wave guide." says Dr. Hart. "Those electrons hit a target and then put out radiation. So, this room is not radioactive, and the patients are not radioactive. It’s like creating a high-powered x-ray, similar to a chest x-ray, but much stronger."

The biggest difference the linear accelerator brings to the day-to-day radiation existence at DMC Huron valley-Sinai Hospital is in terms of imaging capability. The linear accelerator is able to take images of patients during treatment to allow Dr. Hart to better target tumors, to treat less normal tissue, and be able to give higher doses of radiation in a single fraction.

"We can take a daily CAT scan of a prostate cancer patient with this machine, and verify that the rectum and bladder are in about the same state each day, so that the prostate is in the correct place," says Dr. Hart.

"We compare it to what we have planned. Then the computer overlays the images and tells us what direction we need to shift the patient so that the tumor is in the desired position."

A mask was made and form-fitted to Rick, to hold him in place on the linear accelerator table. The mask is marked with targets for the radiation. There is no pain involved whatsoever.

Patients undergoing traditional radiation may complain of skin irritation or burns, but under the linear accelerator, Rick had none of these symptoms, even after six weeks of intensive treatment. He felt well enough to drive himself to his daily, 15-minute appointments.

Cancer patients should know that linear accelerators provide more accurate targeting of tumors, treating less normal tissue and reducing the amount of time they spend on the radiation table. It may also, in selected cases, reduce the number of times they have to come in for radiation, by being able to offer some of the specialized radiation therapy with fewer numbers of treatments.

Another linear accelerator benefit is the ability to perform the majority of radiation therapies, resulting in more "one-stop shopping" for patients with multiple forms of cancer.

Rick has nothing but good things to say about his experience with the linear accelerator at DMC Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital. "From the moment you walk in, from the receptionist to the technicians, everybody treats you as if you’re the only patient they have. At the end of the process, I had mixed emotions. I was happy that the process was done, but a little sad, because I had genuinely come to love these people and care for them they way they’ve cared for me."

"When you’re told you have cancer, and you’re told you have a fight ahead of you, it can be scary. The people at this hospital eliminate that fear."

To learn more about the linear accelerator, connect with Dr. Kimberly Hart  at DMC Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital, or call 888-DMC-2500.

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Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital
Kimberly Hart M.D.(Connect with this doctor)
Clinical Chief, Department of Radiation Oncology Assistant Professor (WSU)
PRIMARY HOSPITAL: Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital
SPECIALTY: Therapeutic Radiology
SUB-SPECIALTY: Radiation Oncology
BOARD CERTIFICATION: American Board of Radiology-Radiation Oncology
EDUCATION/TRAINING: Wayne State University School of Medicine
INTERNSHIP: William Beaumont Hospital
RESIDENCY: Detroit Medical Center/WSU Affiliated Hospitals, Radiation Oncology
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