When a patient hears the word “cancer,” the clock stands still. Each moment becomes individualized, pinpointed in time. For many, a diagnosis like this can be overwhelming–hearing what seems like so much information, so many scenarios. But one hospital in Central Louisiana has a weapon to fight back accurately, to match those small moments with lifesaving precision.
Stereotactic body radiation therapy, or SBRT, is a cancer treatment that delivers extremely precise, very intense doses of radiation to cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy tissue. CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Health System is the only hospital in the area offering this groundbreaking technology, treating small, early-stage lung cancer, or cancers that have spread to the lung, liver and other tissues.
“SBRT involves the use of sophisticated image guidance that pinpoints the exact 3-D location of a tumor, or lesion, so that the radiation can be more precisely delivered to cancer cells,” explained Lawrence Menache, M.D., a Radiation Oncologist practicing at the CHRISTUS Cabrini Cancer Center. “In the short time we have been using this technology, we have been able to make a tremendous impact in the community: the number of patients we’ve been able to treat successfully is simply amazing.”
Conventional radiation is typically delivered in relatively small doses each day over several weeks, but sometimes it can delay or interfere with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. But SBRT can usually be given in five or fewer daily sessions in an outpatient setting and requires no anesthesia. Perhaps most importantly, SBRT is a literal lifesaver for patients for whom surgery is not an option.
“SBRT also can lead to better outcomes and fewer side effects than conventional radiation therapy, and the data shows that in Stage 1-2 disease, SBRT is as effective or better than surgery,” said Dr. Menache. “A lot of patients just can’t get surgery, and though not all patients are candidates for the treatment, with SBRT we can help them by treating a very small area without doing damage to the surrounding tissue.”
In the past, patients had to travel at least two hours to receive this treatment–usually five trips and 20 hours of driving. Now, they can get it at home. “There is clearly a need for this,” said Dr. Menache. “It will save an untold number of patients from so many avoidable complications and issues. With SBRT at CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini, patients don’t have endure the physical toll and cost of surgery, they don’t have to spend unnecessary time in the hospital, and they are able to undergo this advanced cancer treatment locally, here in Alexandria.”