EYEAFRICA TV: Cape Town, South Africa: A new cancer fighting machine, which will allow doctors to treat more than 3,000 oncology patients a year, has been installed in a government hospital in South Africa.
For many cancer patients, undergoing radiotherapy treatment can be a life saver but it’s often time consuming and onerous, especially at public facilities.
However, for many patients in South Africa, that may change because Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital now has a new weapon in their arsenal in the fight against cancer. Their new Halcyon Linac Radiotherapy machine will allow them to now treat up to 40 patients a day, which is four times faster than standard treatments.
“It will make an important contribution for two reasons; one is that it’s very quick so we can put a lot of patients onto the machine and treat them very quickly, but the second one is that we can afford it, we can fit it into an old cobalt bunker and put a machine where we couldn’t put a machine before,” said Jeannette Parks, head of Radiation Oncology at Groote Schuur Hospital.
The high tech machine, which resembles a CT scanner, makes virtually no noise at all and takes just six minutes to treat a patient. Two of the most common cancers found in men and women in South Africa are breast and prostate cancers.
Staff at the hospital said that while the new machine certainly helps with the amount patients it can treat daily, there are more underlying benefits to it.
“This give us the opportunity to visualize soft tissue, so you can see the actual prostate for example, instead of just the bones around the prostate. And this is what allows us to match to soft tissue, so that we know that we are treating the actual target and not just in the vicinity of the target,” said Annemari Groenewald, medical physicist at Grrote Schuur Hospital.
For the few patients who have received treatment so far, it’s a far cry from its predecessors.
“Patient comfort on this unit is spectacular compared to where we worked on other units. The other units are amazing but this thing literally tops everything. Our patients get on the bed, by the time we are outside, the moment we come in, they are like are we done, are we done? I must say it is amazing,” said Samantha Wessels, radiotherapist at Grrote Schuur Hospital
The machine also offers great potential for the future in research and development, including the possibility of adaptive planning and artificial intelligence but for now, it’s being put to good use in this important public health battle.