A cancer diagnosis can be scary and the thought of traveling away from home for treatment can certainly add more fear. Now, a revolutionary tumor fighting machine is right here in Lake Charles to help in local patients in their cancer fight.
74-year-old JoAnn Blaha of Sulphur says she isn't scared of her lung cancer diagnosis anymore - in spite of a dark prognosis early on. "I said 'how long' and he said 'well, from three months to three years.'"
JoAnn is no stranger to cancer's effects. Her daughter died ten years ago from cancer, after intense radiation.
She brought those fears to Lake Charles Memorial Hospital's Cancer Center and to radiation oncologist, Dr. James Maze. "I started crying and said that I don't want all of this radiation, and he said, 'but we've come so far.'"
That technology that has come so far is called "intensity-modulated radiation therapy" or in some cases, "gated" treatment. What it means is targeted, tumor-specific radiation that does not touch surrounding tissues and organs. "Gating is when the treatment is triggered by a remote optic camera that turns the machine on and off with each breath of air the patient takes," said Dr. Maze.
This is critical for lung cancer patients, because tumors are more prone to move while breathing. It is also used to treat tumors in the brain, breast, head and neck, liver, nasopharynx, pancreas, prostate and uterus.
The bed used for radiation treatments is specifically marked so that patients can be perfectly positioned. "The table is indexed so that we can get to the centimeter, precisely the same every day," said Dr. Maze.
That precise treatment is giving fewer side effects and better results - something JoAnn says she's already experiencing. "I've already made it to three months and I'm hoping to make it at least another three years and from the way he talks, I'll live forever!"
The high-powered medical linear accelerator used in the treatments is called the Trilogy System, manufactured by Varian, Inc. It costs hospitals about $3 million. Lake Charles Memorial Hospital is the only medical facility in the region to offer the technology.
It is something that the local Free to Breathe chapter is thrilled to see in Southwest Louisiana. It will allow lung cancer patients to get their treatment in Lake Charles, versus driving to Houston. For more information on Free to Breathe and resources for lung cancer patients, click here.
To learn more about the Trilogy System and Lake Charles Memorial Hospital's Cancer Center, click here.