LUMBERTON — For retired Bladen County resident Louis Brisson, finding out that the cancer he had beat in 1997 had returned was devastating news.
At 81, Brisson says he values the time he has left, and as he had already had his prostate surgically removed in 1997, he knew that this particular form of cancer could only be fought through hours of time consuming radiotherapy. So Brisson was pleased to learn Robeson County’s Gibson Cancer Center has just acquired what it is calling a revolutionary new radiation treatment system that the center says will cut the time needed for radiotherapy in half.
“It is much faster. Much, much faster,” said Shari Kinlaw, radiation oncology manager. “For example: Normally a head and neck treatment takes us about 25 to 30 minutes, with this, we can do it in less than 10 minutes. The amount of time is a huge improvement as well as the amount of accuracy.”
The new more modern design uses relaxing lights, and as it moves around a patient instead of surrounding them, there is less of a risk of claustrophobia than some older systems.
“It is very comfortable. You don’t feel anything at all. It is like an X-ray,” Brisson said. “This is my sixth day using it too … I have 37 of these though, five days a week … Hopefully I can get back to fishing. I like to stay active.”
Coming it at a cost of approximately $3 million, the new Elekta Versa HD Radiotherapy System is among the most sophisticated technologies in cancer treatment available, and the Gibson Cancer Center, which is an affiliate of Southeastern Health, had the distinction of being among the only treatment centers to have acquired it.
“It has capabilities to treat all types of cancer,” Kinlaw said. “It also allows us to do stereotactic, which is radiosurgery … . Very targeted radiation to very small parts.”
The system’s patented technology provides superior conformance to tumor size, shape and volume, allowing clinicians to administer higher dose rates that can enhance effectiveness while protecting critical areas such as the heart, spine, or bladder. The system used by the treatment center before the start of July was a 10-year-old Siemens Primus system.
Currently, Kinlaw says, the treatment center is easing its staff into the use of the new system by treating newer patients with the new machine while the patients who were already receiving treatments continue with the Siemens Primus. At the end of August, the old machine will be put out of commission and likely sold.
The new system is being used to treat up to 15 patients a day, but by September it will likely be used to treat more than 50 a day.
“After I get done with these daily visits, I feel just fine,” Brisson said. “I just go home, jump on the tractor and get to work cutting grass and weeds. I can do anything I want to do.”