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Cancer Center

Treatments & Technology

Treatment Options

Therapy is often recommended after surgery to increase the effectiveness of treatment. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are often given after surgery to increase the likelihood of a cure. At the NMMC Cancer Center, physicians, including surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists, work together to develop the best course of treatment for each patient.

Medical oncologists focus on the diagnosis and treatment of solid malignant tumors, and hematologists treat blood disorders. These physicians determine the most effective chemotherapy drugs and doses to use. Chemotherapy may be given along with radiation therapy or one course of treatment may be administered before the other for optimal results.

Radiation oncologists use high-energy radiation to destroy cancer cells. External beam radiation therapy uses radiation delivered from outside the body that is focused on the cancer. Patients do not actually feel radiation treatments.

Outpatient Infusion is located on the second floor and offers chemotherapy as well as blood and blood products. Hematology & Oncology physicians are located at BridgePoint, 961 S. Gloster St. in Tupelo.

Cutting-edge Technology

RapidArc

The NMMC Cancer Center was the first in Mississippi to offer treatment using RapidArc™ radiotherapy technology from Varian Medical Systems. RapidArc is a fast, precise form of treatment that is delivered eight times faster than is possible with conventional radiation therapy technologies. By delivering radiation doses more quickly and with great accuracy, NMMC clinicians can simultaneously improve the quality of care while making patients more comfortable.


RapidArc makes it possible for to deliver highly-precise intensity-modulated radiotherapy treatments quickly. These treatments target tumors accurately while sparing the surrounding healthy tissues.


RapidArc is an image-guided IMRT treatment that takes about 90 seconds to deliver once a patient has been positioned for treatment. This is markedly faster than other forms of treatment, which sometimes take up to 20 minutes or longer per session. During a RapidArc treatment session, which is completed with one or multiple rotations of the treatment machine around the patient, the radiation beam is continually shaped and reshaped according to the size, shape and position of the tumor in the body. As a result, the delivery of radiation is many times faster than with conventional treatment technologies.


Because the treatment is fast, it is also easier on the patient. Patients who had difficulty holding still for long periods of time are now able to receive their treatment in less time, allowing us to improve quality of care while making patients more comfortable.

Image-Guided Radiotherapy (IGRT)

Physicians at the NMMC Cancer Center have begun using a new image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT) treatment for cancer patients using an advanced imaging system to more precisely locate tumors at the moment of treatment.

The new technology from Varian Medical Systems combines imaging and treatment on one machine, providing fast and accurate adaptive radiotherapy treatments that deliver high doses of radiation directly to cancer cells while minimizing the dose to surrounding healthy tissues. Until now, radiation oncologists have had to deal with variations in patient position and target motion by including a margin of healthy tissue around the tumor to account for variation in daily positioning.


Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)

This radiotherapy system, which includes two linear accelerators, is capable of delivering IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy).

“The new equipment treats cancer with precisely placed beams that can be focused to carefully target tumor cells without harming surrounding tissue,” said radiation oncologist W. Ray Reed Jr., M.D. “NMMC is among the first hospitals in the nation to offer this leading-edge technology.”

NMMC’s clinicians use the SmartBeam® IMRT system from Varian Medical System of Palo Alto, Calif., to treat patients with certain types of cancer with precisely placed beams that can be focused to carefully target tumor cells.

Varian, the equipment’s manufacturer, designated NMMC’s Cancer Center as a national reference site. Representatives from other programs visit the center to emulate its services. “This new technology is comparable to that used at some of the nation’s leading cancer programs, including Mayo Clinic, M.D. Anderson, and university hospitals such as UAB, Emory, Vanderbilt and Duke,” Dr. Reed said.


The enhanced doses increase the likelihood that a tumor will be completely eradicated. Also, the new technology enables clinicians to use radiation to treat areas that would have been considered too risky just a few years ago.

Each of the linear accelerators stand approximately nine feet tall by nearly 15 feet long and weigh about 18,700 pounds. The units generate high energy X-rays by using microwave energy to accelerate electrons to nearly the speed of light. As the electrons reach maximum speed, they collide with a metal target to release photos (or X-rays). The accelerator rotates around the patient to deliver the radiation treatments from nearly any angle. The equipment is housed in treatment rooms with lead-lined walls.

An important component of the linear accelerator is the multi-leaf collimator. The device’s 120 computer-controlled mechanical “leaves” or “fingers” are used to shape the beam of radiation so that it conforms to the three-dimensional shape of the tumor.

“These leaves do much more than shield healthy tissue,” Dr. Reed said. “The tiny leaves are constantly moving and rearranging the radiation beam so it hits the target while avoiding healthy surrounding tissue.”

“Another improvement is patients spend less time receiving treatment,” Dr. Reed said. “In the past, custom treatment blocks were developed for each patient. If more than one area was treated, the blocks would be removed and the other set put in place. Now with all treatment plans computerized, treatment isn’t stopped to reposition the patient and treatment blocks.”

The technology compliments NMMC’s 3-D computer software that clinicians use to plan, simulate and deliver IMRT and other kinds of ultra-precise cancer care.

On average, radiation therapy treatment regimes average five days per week for approximately six weeks. Once the patient is on the table, a treatment typically takes about five to 10 minutes.