Starting in December of 2009, the Avera Queen of Peace Cancer Center in Mitchell will be able to offer Brachytherapy radiation treatment for certain groups of their cancer patients. To have this high tech treatment in Mitchell is very beneficial for folks in a 19 county area.
Radiation Oncology Director Charlene Berke is thrilled to be able to bring bracytherapy to the Mitchell area. The Avera Queen of Peace Cancer Center received a $2 million dollar grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust to bring this type of radiation therapy here. Up until now, cancer patients needing radiation would be treated by a linear accelerator power X-ray machine.
Avera Queen of Peace Radiation Oncologist Dr. Stephen Dick says, "That's external beam radiation. Brachytherapy is internal radiation. We implant radioactive sources inside the patient and the cancer is treated from the inside."
Not all cancer patients are candidates for this type of area specific radiation therapy. Dr. Dick says it's best for early stage prostate cancer where the tumor is confined to the prostate gland and early stage breast cancer where the tumor is smaller than 3 cm and no cancer was found in the lymph nodes.
Charlene Berke demonstrates how it works. She says, "So the surgeon implants this device at the time of the lumpectomy in the breast. It is sutured in and will stay in the breast for the week of brachytherapy. She comes in and we connect a catheter to the implant and the brachytherapy machine and she's do this 2 times a day. When she's done the implant is removed."
The radioactive seeds are very small, the size of a piece of uncooked rice. It goes from the machine through the catheter to the area of cancer and back out again.
Dr. Dick, says, "The radiation dose is given to a defined area and the radiation falls off very quickly so we can treat the areas we want and the other organs next to the area being treated get very little or no radiation."
Time is really the biggest factor to brachytherapy. Breast cancer patients come in twice a day for a week and then the implanted catheter is removed. Five days of brachytherapy versus 6 1/2 weeks of traditional radiation. No wonder everyone in the Mitchell area is happy to have this very expensive piece of technology in house at Avera Queen of Peace.
Now that the Avera Queen of Peace Cancer Center can offer brachytherapy, patients in the Mitchell area no longer need to drive long distances for this type of specialized treatment.