Radiation oncology to start this month

CANCER Treatments

THE region’s long-awaited radiation oncology service at the North West Cancer Centre will begin treating patients at the end of this month.

It will mark the first time radiation therapy has been available in the northern region for people with cancer, who previously had to travel to Sydney or Newcastle to receive the treatment.

The centre’s operations manager Peter Freeman said this meant patients could remain closer to home, loved ones and support networks throughout treatment, especially given the new patient accommodation facility at the hospital, Inala House.

Planning for the patients’ treatments began about two weeks ago, although preparations to bring the service to fruition have been underway for quite some time.

The service will begin treating patients with more common cancers and will slowly build up its capacity.

“We’re really excited to actually have patients ... we’ve been jealous of upstairs (medical oncology), where they’ve had patients since February,” chief radiation therapist David Willis said.

Mr Freeman said while the exact number of patients to be treated with radiation therapy at the cancer centre was hard to estimate, a linear accelerator – the machine that delivered the treatment – would typically treat 30 to 35 patients each day.

Locally, radiation therapy will be able to treat a wide range of cancers, but more specialised treatments will still require travel to larger centres.

The $2.5 million linear accelerator – the only one in NSW this side of the Great Dividing Range – arrived at the centre last November and since then staff have been commissioning and calibrating the equipment to ensure it delivers safe and accurate treatment. Radiation therapy involves the delivery of radiation to kill abnormal cells.

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