Cancer may be a life-changing diagnosis, but, thanks to technology, radiation treatment doesn’t have to be. A Fort Myers clinic is using a new device that makes radiation much easier to tolerate.
Harold Fowler is the picture of good health. You might be surprised to know that he has prostate cancer. Thursday was his last radiation treatment.
“Today, I rang the bell and got my certificate of completion, and life will resume as it was,” Fowler said.
Fowler got the radiation he needed without side effects by using the new MRIdian MRI-guided radiation system that was recently put into operation at GenesisCare, located at 2270 Colonial Blvd. in Fort Myers.
“This is the first of several that we’re going to be putting in the United States,” said Dr. Rodney Ellis, a radiation oncologist at GenesisCare.
Ellis is Fowler’s doctor and an expert in this new approach.
“The difference in this machine versus regular machines is the MRI is running during treatment; it can image up to eight times per second,” Ellis said. “If the prostate moves, it will turn itself off.”
Conventional treatments map a tumor and mark it for radiation. However, tumors may shift while patients are on the table.
“So you have to make a larger field and treat more tissue to a higher dose of radiation than is necessary,” Ellis said. “There have been studies that have shown with this technology, the toxicity is reduced by 50%.”
The machine pauses if the tumor moves even slightly. With other systems, treating prostate cancer exposes the bladder and rectum to unnecessary radiation, which can lead to unpleasant side effects. Using real-time MRI lets doctors zero in on a very small area and give higher doses.
“It’s almost quadruple the dose,” Ellis said. “We’re giving about four times as much radiation with these treatments.”
A higher dosage translates to fewer visits, another big win for patients. They can get full treatments in a fraction of the time.
“Over a three-week period, we did five sessions,” Fowler said. “Monday, Thursday, Monday, Thursday and Monday. We were done.”
Instead of up to eight weeks of daily radiation, Fowler had only five sessions in total. This device is such a game-changer that people delayed treatment to wait for the new machine.
“I didn’t want to have downtime; I didn’t want to have recovery time,” Fowler said. “I didn’t want my body emaciated, or I didn’t want to lose a lot of weight and this machine, you know, it allowed me to do all of this without tearing me down.”
Fowler hardly missed a beat and is happy to leave cancer behind him.
This is one of only 28 MRI-guided machines in the U.S. It is a great option for several cancers, including pancreatic cancer, which can be very hard to treat.