The Radiation Oncology department at the Avera Cancer Institute now features two external beam therapy suites which is very unique. Nancy Naeve Brown met a Sioux Falls man who spent some time in one of those suites recently for an invasive lung tumor and why he said treatment was a piece of cake.
Denny MacRunnels admits he's not a guy who goes to the doctor regularly, but that soon changed after he found out in October of 2010 the severe pain he was having in his back was from a cancerous tumor the size of a baseball. It was lodged between his lung and rib cage. For nearly 2 months, 5 days a week he got radiation at the Avera Cancer Institute to shrink the tumor and it worked like a charm.
Denny says, "With this equipment it's absolutely painless after affects nothing. When I first came in I was in a lot of pain, but after a week with radiation the pain totally disappeared."
This piece of equipment is called the ARTISTE Linear Accelerator. It's state-of-the-art technology and top-of-the-line for radiation therapy because of it's 360 degree rotation around the patient and added features for pinpoint accuracy to track in on the tumor while avoiding the nearby critical organs and tissue .
MedXray Radiation Oncologist at the Avera Cancer Institute Dr. Kathleen Schneekloth says, "It's specially designed to use image guided radiation therapy. It has the ability to use 160 very small 5 mm width leaves to conform to the tumor shape and size. Also in the room is CT imaging so that any changes in the patient's position can be corrected before radiation treatment. As you know patients can have 30 to 40 treatments so day to day the accuracy is confirmed by this sub-mm positioning feature."
Only a handful of cancer centers across the country have two vaults with matching sets of linear accelerators. The Avera Cancer Institute is one of them.
Dr. Schneekloth says, "We are delighted with the opportunity to have 2 Artistes. It allows improved work flow for our staff and it allows more flexibility for the patient to maintain their life function."
Denny expected to get the best treatment at the Avera Cancer Institute through technology, but it's the people behind the equipment that made a lasting impression.
Denny says, "Oh they couldn't be better, couldn't be better. The nursing staff, medical staff they may have degrees in nursing but they should have a degree in caring."
Caring for life is what they do best.
Through radiation and chemo therapy, Denny's tumor has shrunk to half the size and is detached from his rib cage which makes it possible to remove surgically.