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New course for cancer care

New treatment helps patients get back to their lives quicker

Enjoying his family during the holiday season remained a top priority for William Deane Sr., a busy grandfather and great-grandfather. But the 73-year-old resident had a lot going on last fall, including cancer treatment.

He managed to balance his time among his eight grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and a part-time job — all while undergoing radiation therapy for prostate cancer at Novant Health UVA Health System Cancer Center in Gainesville, Virginia.

He traveled 40 miles to the cancer center for treatment. Thanks to advanced technology at the center, Deane didn’t need to make as many trips as he would have in the past. He made five visits to the center — fewer than the typical 40 visits usually required under former methods.

And his energy level stayed up throughout the holidays, allowing him to enjoy special times with his large family.

“It was like nothing ever happened,” Deane said. “As far as radiation, I never felt sick or weak. I would recommend it 100 percent.”

Deane received treatment with new technology known as stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), which delivers a highly targeted dose of radiation to areas affected by cancer.

In many cases, stereotactic radiosurgery not only shortens the course of treatment but also reduces symptoms traditionally associated with radiation therapy, according to Dr. Sanjeev Aggarwal, medical director of the Novant Health UVA Health System Cancer Center.

“Stereotactic radiosurgery allows physicians to deliver extremely accurate and high-dose radiation with a millimeter of accuracy to a specific target,” Aggarwal said. “This allows for quicker recovery and patients are healthier at the end of treatment.

“Because of the precision and accuracy of the treatment, there is minimal impact on the surrounding healthy tissue. It’s much more comfortable, and we tend to get patients back to their normal life much faster,” he added.

Stereotactic radiosurgery can be used to treat various forms of cancer, including prostate, pancreatic, lung and spine tumors that start in the brain and may spread there, as well as some kidney cancers.

The radiation therapy shortens the number of a patient’s sessions to fewer than five treatments, in some cases, compared to 35 to 40 rounds under previous methods.

“It’s an excellent treatment,” Aggarwal said. “It’s been a great benefit for patients and gives us the opportunity to reach very difficult areas and eradicate tumors we couldn’t before.”

Aggarwal noted that in the case of lung cancer, for example, doctors can actually see a visible reduction in the tumor within just a matter of days.

“It’s very powerful technology,” he said. “This is a brand-new platform, redesigned from the ground up.”

Treatment times are shorter, too — from four to six minutes, compared to 45 minutes under other methods.

“It’s a huge advantage, not only for accuracy but for patient comfort,” Aggarwal said.

For patients who must travel long distance for treatment, like Deane did, SRS means fewer interruptions to normal life.

“The feedback we’ve received from patients has been excellent,” Aggarwal said.

“They’ve been very happy with the results and the quickened nature of the treatment. For some patients, they feel anxious until the treatment is done. The fact that they may finish radiation therapy in two weeks instead of nine weeks is a huge factor.”

The improved accuracy also translates into improved outcomes, he noted.

Visit to learn more about cancer services offered at Novant Health UVA Health System.

Published: 6/19/2017