I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about a treatment that we are lucky to have here at the Trust.
In Radiotherapy we have recently treated our 100th patient using Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS). This is a complex type of radiotherapy not available at all hospitals due to the highly specialist equipment and training required. We work alongside Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre as the only provider of this treatment in the peninsula, to both malignant and benign tumours.
SRS is different to conventional radiotherapy as the area being targeted needs to be small, usually less than 3cm. This is to ensure the beams of radiation can conform tightly around the tumour, facilitating high dose delivery to the target volume whilst minimising dose to surrounding healthy brain tissue, which helps to reduce side effects.
There are many advantages of SRS, such as much quicker recovery times compared to surgery, a viable treatment option for patients’ whose tumours may be inoperable, no requirement for general anaesthetic, fewer side effects and risks typically associated with SRS in comparison to surgery or conventional brain radiotherapy. In addition to those advantages, rarely is a hospital admission required, so the entire process can be carried out as an outpatient over a few visits.
The first visit after meeting with the Consultant involves making a thermoplastic mask. This is placed in a hot water bath to become soft and malleable, it is then placed over the individual’s face and conformed to their features, personalising this mask to them only. This is kept in place until it has solidified and cooled down. The reason a mask is required is to prevent motion during the treatment due to the accuracy and precision of the treatment coupled with the sensitivity of surrounding organs. The shell needs to be a tight fit to do its job, but it does not hurt. There are many little holes in the shell to ensure easy breathing for the patient throughout this process.
A CT planning scan is also undertaken at the first appointment. This is like a normal CT scan except there are no diagnostic results available; it is purely used to plan each person’s treatment on an individual basis.
This planning can take a few weeks due to the complex nature. SRS is carried out in one treatment appointment once the plan is ready. Other cases of SRS can be carried out over a number of appointments. Prior to each patient’s first treatment they will have a discussion with one of the team where they will be given additional information regarding possible side effects and their management and are also given an opportunity to ask any questions they may have.
We are lucky to be local
We are fortunate to be able to provide this specialised service to our patients in Devon and Cornwall, saving them a long journey to Bristol. We are also lucky as staff group to have the opportunity to work with such remarkable equipment and technology, optimising both patient care and service provision in conjunction with continuing our professional development. I for one, certainly feel privileged to be able to help provide this service to our patients.
Laura is writing as part of the #WeCare2 campaign that will be running across our Trust communications. Look out for more from Radiography, and their AHP and HCS colleagues, on our social media pages, Trust screensavers, Daily Email, Vital Signs and much more.