Cutting edge cancer kit arrives at hospital

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Two multi-million pound linear accelerators that will soon be used to provide radiotherapy to cancer sufferers inside especially constructed bunkers at Altnagelvin arrived in the city at the weekend.

The machines have been described as some of the most advanced equipment currently available in cancer treatment.

Their delivery is the latest milestone in the Western Trust cross border radiotherapy project.

Radiotherapy Manager, Dr David Stewart said: “These machines will make such a difference to patients, who will soon be able to receive their radiotherapy treatment closer to home.

“The new Centre will improve access and pathways for patients making the treatment experience better and improving outcomes.”

Head of Radiotherapy Physics at the Western Trust, Dr Andrew Reilly said: “The system incorporates on-board planar X-ray and CT-scan imaging technology, known as image guided radiotherapy (IGRT), to identify and track the tumour before and during treatment, so that even with small movements such as breathing, the radiotherapy beams are guided to the precise spot.

“State of the art control systems allow the radiation dose to be placed exactly where required during treatment, improving the chance of cure whilst causing less damage to surrounding tissues and also minimizing the risk of complications.”

He added: “Installation will take about six weeks and then a number of months will be required to complete the detailed testing and configuration necessary to prepare the machines for treating our first patients in autumn of this year.”

Two of the three TrueBeam Linear Accelerators were delivered on Saturday morning with the final one expected to arrive within the next few days.

Commonly known as ‘Linacs’, these multi-million pound machines will be used to provide greater access to advanced radiotherapy treatments.

The Linacs will be able to target a range of cancers including prostate, lung, breast, gastro-intestinal and head and neck cancers.

The tumours can be targeted with pinpoint accuracy and the radiation dose delivered up to four times faster than was possible with the previous generation of radiotherapy equipment.

Each machine is the size of a large van and weighs approximately ten tons.

Each Linac will be hoisted in five large pieces from a lorry onto a platform and then into a temporary opening at the side of the Radiotherapy facility.

A team of 10 people will manoeuvre the units into the specially designed treatment suites where they will be assembled and installed ready for testing.