Radiation therapy technique speeds up treatment for patients at CVPH

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) New Technology at Plattsburgh's Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital is speeding up radiation therapy treatment for those with prostate and other cancers.

Ringing the bell at CVPH's Fitzpatrick Cancer Center is a moment Bill Steele has been waiting for since he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer back in October. "Not as good as being done, that's what's really exciting," he said.

A patient with prostate cancer used to endure over eight weeks of treatments. Now, a patient like Steele can complete treatment in six weeks. That's because of volumetric-modulated arc therapy, or VMAT, is offered at CVPH's Fitzpatrick Cancer Center.

"This was a fairly fast process," Steele said.

Dr. Anthony Vaccaro says when patients used to come in for radiology, they would need to stop and start back up to make sure the machine would hit the spot from all directions. VMAT does that all in one swoop.

"We're able to take the machine and quickly rotate it around completely and say, 'There, you've been treated,'" Vaccaro said.

Patients lay on the bed and a green, cone-shaped beam pinpoints the exact location of the tumor, regardless of where it is on the body. The beam is shaped perfectly match the tumor.

"We're thinking of a cancer that's got a particular irregular shape and we can shape the treatment field around that," Vaccaro said.

The benefit of sizing exactly where the radiation is going allows for the doctors to cut down on radiation time. The whole process is about eight minutes under the machine. The tissue outside of the tumor is also spared, getting less direct contact with radiation.

"Each section gets minimal radiation and therefore you don't see the side effects that you would get from tissue that was heavily radiated," Vaccaro said.

Steele says he's now off to Florida with his wife where they will celebrate him being cancer free. He says he's grateful that VMAT is offered so close to home. "I felt good because I didn't have to leave my wife of 47 years alone and didn't have to go down and live in a motel or hotel down in the city or anywhere else. I think it's great that it's available here locally," he said.