An Energetic Approach to Cancer Care
Dr. Ryan Abel
Radiation therapy is much more accurate now than in years past, and the radiation can be more precisely controlled, Dr. Ryan Abel, a radiation oncologist, said.
A widely used approach that relies on accuracy and precision is stereotactic radiation, which uses multiple radiation beams simultaneously.
“The idea is that you are delivering radiation to the tumor with very minimal surrounding tissue radiation,” Dr. Abel said. “This allows us to give a lethal dose to whatever is being targeted, while sparing the normal cells around it.”
One of the most important tools at the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center is also one of the newest. The TrueBeamTM linear accelerator, made by Varian Medical Systems, came to the center in late 2017. The TrueBeam is capable of controlling accuracy to within a fraction of a millimeter, the size of a pencil lead.
"It is very tightly confined, so they don't even have symptoms," Dr. Abel said. "Most of the time when patients get stereotactic radiation, they don't even know we're doing it. They come in... and then they can continue on with their normal life."
Dr. Abel added that his work relies heavily on supporting medical specialists.
“For accurate staging, diagnosis and treatment, it helps to know what you’re dealing with. I can’t do that on my own. I rely on pulmonologists and diagnostic radiologists to help me know where the cancer is located,” Dr. Abel said.
Fellow specialists are key players at other stages of treatment as well.
“The pulmonologists also help take care of patients after treatment. Surgeons help with removing tumors. Without medical oncologists, our cure rates are decreased because chemotherapy and systemic therapies are essential to improve overall outcomes.”
That ability to collaborate is helping improve survival rates.
“We’re seeing Stage IV lung cancer patients living years, when before the prognosis wasn’t as good,” Dr. Abel said.
That’s happening here, and it’s a reflection of the excellence in care being offered at the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.
“Patients can still live here, get radiation and receive the chemotherapy they need,”