In early 2013, Craig LaMountain, a 65-year-old Greene County resident, was the first person treated at the Sentara Martha Jefferson Cancer Care Center with Calypso, a real-time, tumor-tracking technology.
“I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in August 2012,” LaMountain shared. “I know many people worry when they hear ‘cancer,’ and of course, that was one of my thoughts. However, after learning that Sentara Martha Jefferson had this technology, I decided to wait for training to be completed. I was confident I’d receive excellent care.”
LaMountain knew that Calypso would enable his doctors to take treatment to a new level.
“Before we had access to Calypso, we would do an initial targeting session and mark the tumor using implanted fiducial markers, and then we’d do the radiation treatment the next day,” noted Dr. Sylvia Hendrix, a radiation oncologist. “We hoped that things wouldn’t change, but we knew that wasn’t necessarily the case; internal organs are always moving.”
The Calypso system uses three tiny electromagnetic transponders, each smaller than a grain of rice, implanted into the organ during an outpatient procedure. During treatment, the radiation therapist positions the linear accelerator (the radiation machine), and the transponders transmit radio signals to show the tumor’s location.
“With Calypso, we’re expecting to see fewer side effects,” said Hendrix. “The higher degree of precision allows us greater confidence that the beams are hitting the target, so we can treat a smaller area.”
LaMountain was at the Sentara Martha Jefferson Cancer Care Center five days a week for a total of 42 treatments, with each session lasting about 30 minutes. For him, having access to advanced technology was worth the time:
“It sounds like a lot, but it really hasn’t slowed me down at all. I’ve experienced no side effects, and when I left treatment I would go home and do a full day’s work.”
Limiting side effects
In the past, side effects from prostate cancer treatments were a great concern. Studies have shown that with Calypso, doctors can apply a higher dose of radiation while decreasing side effects.
“The narrower the area targeted with radiation, the better able we are to minimize the side effects, including incontinence, impotence and loss of bowel function,” noted Dr. Julian Fagerli, a urologist at Urological Associates. “I see people come in 10 to 20 years after radiation treatment who are demonstrating complications. Those complications are associated with the scatter of radiation hitting the adjacent organs, and the Calypso system will minimize that form of scatter. Ultimately, this kind of tracking system can improve a patient’s quality of life both during and after radiation treatment.”
As for LaMountain, he’s confident that he won’t have to worry about prostate cancer while he enjoys his golden years, thanks to Calypso.
“I am thankful I had the opportunity to reap the benefits,” he commented. “Because of the new technology, I’ve beaten my prostate cancer and am happy to be back to my normal life again.