Sentara Norfolk General Hospital offers alternative to open surgery
Live webcast scheduled Thursday, May 28th at 2:00pm
Chesapeake, VA - March 25, 2009 – Deborah Terry was first diagnosed in 2004 with a cancerous tumor in a vein under her heart. But it did not stop there.
“It’s like it’s got wings,” Terry says. “It doesn’t want to stop.”
Terry was battling a leiomyosarcoma (lee-o-my’-o-sarcoma,) an aggressive smooth muscle tumor. Despite treatment and close monitoring, other masses appeared in her lungs, liver, hips, pelvis and back.
“They were afraid it was going to attach itself to my spine and paralyze me,” Terry says. Yet, open surgery to attack the tumor was considered too risky.
Her physician, Scott Williams, M.D., a radiation oncologist with Eastern Virginia Medical School, had his patient ready and waiting when Sentara Norfolk General Hospital installed the first CyberKnife® radiosurgery device in Hampton Roads, so he could attack the tumor near Terry’s spine with highly precise targeted radiation.
“Her spinal cord had already received a maximum lifetime dose of radiation from previous treatments,” Dr. Williams recalls. “Because of the precision of the Cyberknife,
we can deliver therapeutic doses of radiation to the tumor while protecting the spinal cord.”
Terry had three CyberKnife treatments in January and is awaiting the results while undergoing chemotherapy.
“CyberKnife has also proven effective for lung cancer patients who are too sick to tolerate traditional surgery to remove tumors or lobes. We’re seeing reports of up to 90 percent control rates approaching what has been seen with surgery,” Dr. Williams says. “For early stage lung tumors, it is rapidly becoming the standard of care for patients who can’t have surgery.”
CyberKnife offers ‘whole body’ options for radiosurgery
CyberKnife’s predecessor technology, known as GammaKnife, is limited to brain and neck cancers and requires an uncomfortable frame, held on with skull pins, to steady a patient’s head.
CyberKnife offers the same precision, but a computerized guidance system eliminates the head frame and keeps the radiation beam on the tumor even as patients breathe or move slightly during treatments, which can last several hours.
“It wasn’t bad,” Terry recalls. “I was comfortable.”
CyberKnife’s applications extend beyond the head and neck to tumors of the lung, pancreas, liver and spine, giving cancer patients who cannot tolerate surgery access to unprecedented accuracy in the delivery of radiation therapy.
Pain relief an unexpected benefit from CyberKnife
Dr. Williams recalls a cancer patient who was taking prescription narcotics for pain before his first CyberKnife treatment.
“We treated him on a Friday morning,” Dr. Williams recalls, “and by Friday night he was pain free. When we saw him again Monday, he was in narcotic withdrawal because he hadn’t needed any pain medication all weekend.”
Dr. Williams says rapid pain relief is appearing in medical writings as an unanticipated benefit to cancer treatments with CyberKnife.
Another benefit of CyberKnife over traditional surgery is that treatments are performed on an outpatient basis. There is no anesthesia, no incision and no blood.
“Patients don’t feel the radiation,” Dr. Williams says, “and they can walk out the door when the treatment is finished.”
Dr. Williams concludes that CyberKnife is one of the best technologies available for delivering high-dose radiation against tumors while protecting healthy surrounding tissues.
“It is opening doors for some patients who have run out of options.”
Live CyberKnife radiosurgery webcast scheduled May 28th at 2:00pm
The webcast, available through ExploreHealth With Sentara feature spinal, liver and cranial procedures as well as patient stories and physician interaction to explain the benefits of CyberKnife radiosurgery for cancer patients.
More information on CyberKnife treatment at Sentara
CyberKnife images & video at Accuray.
The Sentara Cancer Network provides a multidisciplinary approach to cancer care. With multiple locations, a diverse team of specialists and cutting-edge technology, patients and their families have access to the latest in prevention, diagnosis and treatment.