War on cancer now local

By BELINDA F SCOTT

COFFS Harbour's new radiotherapy unit will treat its first patient within weeks.

Beam data tests are being conducted this week, simulations will begin on April 16 and on April 28 the city's new $3 million linear accelerator will go into action 'for real' in the war against cancer.

The occasion will be as exciting for the staff working in North Coast Cancer Institute as it will be for those patients who will be able to tear up their train, plane and bus tickets because they will no longer need to travel to Sydney for treatment.

Staff will be working with a state-of-the-art linear accelerator which uses multi-leaf focusing to modify the shape of the radiation beam in order to target cancer cells and spare healthy tissue, minimising and, in some cases, eliminating side effects of the radiation treatment.

Oncology staff will also be working with a machine housed inside an innovative maze design, the first of its kind in Australia, which eliminates the need for shield doors and allows a more efficient working environment.

The director of the North Coast Cancer Institute, Associate Professor Tom Shakespeare, said in spite of the demand for radiotherapy unit staff around Australia, they had had no difficulty attracting people keen to work with new equipment which was the latest and best in its field and the fact that equipment was in a regional centre had been no impediment.

He said there were currently 100 patients who would be able to benefit from radiotherapy treatment in Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie.

The clinic includes radiotherapy, medical oncology, breastscreening and consulting rooms as well as sophisticated videoconferencing.

The medical oncology section is already in operation and yesterday Boambee's Neville Brown was among those appreciating the new centre, which is also only a short walk from the patients and carers accommodation, Shearwater Lodge.

"This is light years ahead," said Mr Brown, who is undergoing several months of chemotherapy treatment.



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