The Radiation Department at Tygerberg Hospital provides radiotherapy services to an ever increasing number of cancer patients from the surrounding communities and rural areas in the Western Cape. In order to continue to provide quality radiotherapy within a reasonable waiting period, the new state-of-the-art Elekta Synergy Agility ® linear accelerator (LINAC) was commissioned and installed in 2014.
Successful radiotherapy depends on the ability of the LINAC to deliver a dose of radiation to the tumor while ensuring minimal radiation to normal tissue. The new LINAC has an improved beam shaping mechanism termed a multileaf collimator that consists of 160 0,5cm leaves that can be shaped into almost any shape. Previous collimators could only shape the beam into squares or rectangular fields. The improved beam shaping mechanism enable better matching the shape of the beam to the shape of the tumor which decrease radiation to normal surrounding tissue. This reduces the side effects normally associated with radiation treatment.
The new LINAC also include the latest hi-tech treatment that involves using VMAT (volumetric modulated arc therapy), which deliver the radiation dose to the patient in a single moving arc from 0 to 360 degrees. Older technology LINACS deliver the dose to the patient in a combination of separate beams. This new VMAT technology vastly reduces treatment time.
The implementation of the new technique involves more input, calculations and quality assurance from medical physicist, radiographers and oncologists to prepare the patient’s treatment plan. Although the preparation is more time-consuming, once the planning is complete, the individual patient’s treatment time is shortened to a matter of minutes. This technology is at the cutting edge of radiation delivery and is on par with techniques used in Europe and the USA.
The new LINAC has the capability of treating over 450 patients per year. In addition to the VMAT technology, it still has the ability to treat radical and palliative patients with the more traditional 3-dimensional and 2-dimensional radiation techniques.
It forms part of a complement of LINACs in the department where nearly 2000 patients are treated each year. This includes curative radiotherapy for cervix, prostate, gastrointestinal, brain and breast cancers. Paediatric cancer patients are also treated in the division with high quality advanced radiation techniques.
In addition, the availability of this new technology allows for advanced training for radiation Oncologists, Radiographers and Physicists. The Division currently trains specialists from South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and Zambia.
The expansion of the availability of radiotherapy services at Tygerberg Hospital confirms the commitment to providing high quality care to the community.