New LINAC radiation therapy machine improves outcomes for cancer patients at TBH | Western Cape Government


New LINAC radiation therapy machine improves outcomes for cancer patients at TBH

14 November 2023

New LINAC radiation therapy machine improves outcomes for cancer patients at Tygerberg Hospital

In a  heart-warming win for cancer patients, Tygerberg Hospital officially unveiled its new Varian TrueBeam linear accelerator (LINAC) machine on 14 November 2023. The hospital’s Division of Radiation Oncology has been using this machine since May of this year to deliver safe and effective radiotherapy to nearly 81 patients who required treatment for breast, gynaecology, prostate, head, neck, and neurological cancers.

The machine is one of three in use in the Western Cape – one is used in the private health sector and the other at Groote Schuur Hospital. The machine produces high-energy particles or waves in the form of beams that destroy or damage cancer cells. These beams are focussed on the specific part of the patient’s body where the cancerous cells are located. This shrinks the tumour, or prevents the tumour from growing back after it has been removed with an operation. A single session on the machine takes about 15 to 30 minutes and most patients can complete their treatment course on an out-patient basis. 

Up until 13 November 2023, Tygerberg Hospital has treated 81 new cancer patients on the machine and performed nearly 1 329 daily treatments. To date, five therapeutic radiographers and radiation therapists (RTTs) received training and subsequently rotated another five RTTs through the machine to provide them with in-house training.

The hospital’s Division of Radiation Oncology sees nearly 2 250 new cancer patients per year, of which nearly 1 800 require radiotherapy as part of their treatment. 

Dr Henriette Burger, newly appointed Head of the Division of Radiation Oncology at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital, explained: “The installation of the new VARIAN TrueBeam linear accelerator expands our arsenal of advanced radiotherapy treatment capabilities including intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) and Stereotactic Radiotherapy. Patients receiving radiotherapy after removal of breast cancers will specifically benefit from new the breathing-regulated technologies. All these advances enable us to reduce treatment, side-effects and improve the accuracy of radiotherapy. Being an academic institution, the hospital trains the next generation of radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, and medical physicists for South Africa and the rest of Africa. Having a TrueBeam LINAC further ensures that we produce professionals that are confident in working with these state-of-the-art technologies.” 

According to Dr Keith Cloete, Head of the Department of Health and Wellness, adding these new machines enables our large public hospitals to expand our service offering to our clients. “It confirms our commitment to put the needs of our patients at the centre of their care. The LINAC machine is a crucial tool in modern medicine in the treatment of cancer and to do various medical procedures. It enables our hardworking and dedicated staff to deliver precise and targeted radiation therapy, thereby significantly improving the health and well-being of our patients. These machines bring hope and provide an important sense of worth to our patients being treated for various types of cancers.” 

Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, Western Cape Minister of Health and Wellness, said: “Cancer remains a prevalent disease which affects many people's lives in the Western Cape. This is why maintaining and investing in modern health infrastructure is so important. Our facilities are our vehicles for service delivery where we provide life-saving care to residents, especially in terms of oncological care. The addition of this new machine will greatly capacitate Tygerberg Hospital to continue to be a crucial component of our healthcare system in our province. I look forward to the positive impact this investment will have on our patients going forward.” 

Oncology patient William Haywood (67) from Goodwood, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer said: “I am glad that I was able to be treated at the hospital, using this machine. I was thoroughly informed by doctors during my visits about what to expect prior to my operation, as well as the post-operation procedures. The new machine will benefit every patient, as I have already experienced the results during my treatment.”