May 6, 2013 at 6:57 PM CDT - Updated August 29 at 1:04 AM
It's a sad fact that Kentucky not only leads the way in the number of people getting diagnosed with lung cancer, but also leads in lung cancer deaths as well. But new technology at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville is putting a target on that statistic.
It's called TruBeam, and JGBCC is the first in the state to provide this unique radiation therapy tool to lung cancer patients. While TruBeam can also be used in the fight against breast cancer, prostate and head and neck cancers, it's ability to stay on target while a person is breathing, makes it extremely beneficial to people battling lung cancer.
On X-ray, Dr. Neal Dunlop can point out the tumor in the lungs of his 83-year-old patient, King Harris.
"Every time he takes a breath, you can see that he's moving, the lungs are moving" Dr. Dunlap explained.
TruBeam technology allows doctors to map out where the tumor is, and then program a treatment plan into the machine so that during treatment, "we can follow that (tumor) specifically and verify that we're hitting it, so we don't miss it and secondly avoid hitting normal structures nearby."
Part of the precision relies on patient involvement as well. They're asked to wear a pair of video game goggles that will show them through bio-feedback how deep they're breathing so they can control the size of their breaths, helping the machine stay on target.
"The thought process is [that] with more accurate delivery, that will potentially miss tumors less and effectively cure more patients," said Dunlap.
Doctors found the lung cancer in Harris early. Dunlap says cure rates at stage one is right now around 80 percent, but that technology like this is giving patient even more hope.
In addition to more precise therapy, TruBeam hits the tumor with a higher dose of radiation, cutting treatment time from the typical 45 minutes to less than 20.