The Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, this morning introduced the newly acquired state-of-the-art radiation equipment that has been procured by Groote Schuur Hospital for the treatment of cancer patients.
The new linac equipment was acquired at a cost of R16 million. Together with the upgrade of the former radiation unit and the infrastructural changes to the therapy rooms, the project cost the department R23.3 million.
A linac is a shortened word for a linear accelerator. Linacs have many applications: they generate X-rays and high energy electrons for medicinal purposes in radiation therapy. The new Linac makes use of modern technology and has the ability to change the shape of the radiation treatment fields dynamically while patients are treated. This is done through a multi-leaf collimation system.
At present the beam shape is static during radiation treatments until the radiation treatment fields are repositioned. However, technology has advanced so that these leaves now are able to move dynamically during the treatment and allowing quicker but also more accurate and focused radiation therapy.
The acquisition of this equipment will provide high quality and integrated treatment to cancer patients. The new equipment is able to treat 50 patients per day, whereas the equipment that was acquired in 2007 was able to treat 25 patients per day.
Last year Groote Schuur Hospital oncology unit treated 2 922 new patients.
Minister Botha said that the number of people diagnosed with cancer has significantly increased over the past year. The department has an agreement with National Health Laboratory Services to record positive diagnostic investigations. The health impact assessment unit then uses this information to determine the burden of disease and case load. The oncology units at Groote Schuur Hospital and Tygerberg Hospital conduct research on causes and underlying factors.
Over the years the department significantly strengthened the ability of the radiation oncology units with linac machines and has also strengthened our ability to manage patients in a decentralised way in George, which acts as a satellite of Groote Schuur Hospital. The Department offers extensive support for cancer patients, from early detection to diagnosis. Treatment can include medication and or radiotherapy and or surgery. Once a patient is diagnosed with cancer, whether at a day hospital or clinic, they are urgently referred to the specialist centres at Tygerberg and Groote Schuur hospitals.
Some of the initial cancer examinations and surgery are sometimes done at secondary hospitals like Karl Bremer, Eben Donges or Paarl Hospital to fast-track patient management. At Groote Schuur Hospital and Tygerberg Hospital each cancer case is discussed by a cancer care team, including surgeons, clinical oncologists, pathologists and radiologists to make an expert combined decision regarding the management of every individual case.
Minister Botha said when a cancer is detected at an early stage, there is a much better chance of cure. Depending on the type of cancer and stage of detection, the cure rate in adults is 40% at present.
“Some of the most common cancers are preventable by changing your lifestyle. That is why Western Cape Government aims to create a healthier society through the promotion of a healthy lifestyle.”