Cancer patients in central Illinois now have access to one of the world’s most advanced cancer treatment systems. Known as TomoTherapy, the new treatment system has been available at Methodist Medical Center since January. It is the first system to combine the precision and 3-D imaging of a CT (computerized tomography) scan with the power of high-energy radiation treatment. With TomoTherapy, physicians are able to selectively destroy cancerous tumors while avoiding surrounding tissue. This means more of the healthy tissue in a cancer patient is spared.
Cancerous tumors can change shape and location from day to day. With this new equipment, physicians can produce a 3-D image before each treatment to pinpoint the tumor for the most accurate treatment. They can then deliver a painless and precise radiation therapy based on a customized plan for each patient.
Also, unlike conventional radiotherapy which delivers a wide beam of radiation from just two or three directions, TomoTherapy combines sophisticated IMRT (intensity modulated radiation therapy) with a unique spiral delivery pattern. Radiation is directed precisely at the target from an infinite number of angles.
While the TomoTherapy system is not for every cancer patient, it does provide new treatment options for cancer patients diagnosed with previously untreatable tumors. People with tumors in difficult-to-treat areas, such as the spine, lung, throat or upper abdomen, now have the option of the new TomoTherapy system because of its pinpoint accuracy.
TomoTherapy can also improve current prostate treatments by enabling doctors to treat the prostate with higher doses of radiation while reducing exposure to surrounding vital areas. Patients experience fewer side effects for a better quality of life.
The equipment used for TomoTherapy looks much like a CT machine. A patient lies on the machine bench, which moves continuously through a rotating ring. This ring is home to a linear accelerator, which delivers radiation while the ring turns. The radiation beam is able to make a spiral pattern around the patient, targeting tumors in the most precise way possible. TomoTherapy is FDA-approved and is covered by most insurance plans. iBi