Tallahassee Memorial Hospital just got the ball rolling on a therapy program, saying it could forever change the way cancer patients are treated. It's new computer software installed in old machines to make the calculations of radiation doses more accurate.
This means patients will get higher doses of radiation in more precise areas. It's a major breakthrough in the medical community, and the computer software used in intensity modulation radiation therapy is at TMH.
"When we do this, we can issue higher doses of radiation with a higher cure rate; that's what we're trying to do."
The secret behind the technology? Radio cameras and ultrasound can now pinpoint the precise location of a tumor.
Currently, six patients are involved in the program. It's so specialized to their own particular needs that head and neck patients require a special bite plate just to lay down on the table."
"We can actually spare the parotid on one side versus the other, so we can minimize dry mouth and other side effects patients can have in that situation," says Dale Wickstrum, a radiation oncologist.
But a more precise effect requires plenty more planning and work.
"Typically, it would take one hour to perform a routine treatment. To do a IMRT treatment, it's about eight hours," says Jimmy Martin, a medical physicist.
It may take up more of doctors' time, but they say this new cancer-fighting system is the next step to a cure. The new system has been in the works for three months and was just put into operation in the last few weeks.
The new software cost more than $700,000 without all equipment. In a few years, they'll have to replace the big linear accelerator.