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Linear accelerators target cancerous tumors

September 22, 2017

UHS now has two linear accelerators to treat cancer.

A linear accelerator, also sometimes called a LINAC, is the device most commonly used for external beam radiation treatments for patients with cancer.

Developed in the 1950s by Henry Kaplan, MD, and Edward Ginzton, at Stanford University in California, LINACs have come a long way over the years.

Today the machines are in use worldwide to treat cancer in any part of the body, delivering high-energy X-rays or electrons to the region of the patient's tumor.

UHS' recent addition of a second LINAC, this one with the brand name TrueBeam, essentially replaces the old CyberKnife robotic device at UHS Wilson Medical Center and enhances UHS' ability to provide patients with the best in radiation treatment for cancer.

"Our LINACs are designed to target the cancer cells while sparing as much of the healthy tissue in the vicinity as possible," said Rashid Haq, MD, radiation oncologist at the UHS Cancer Care Center. "They offer sub-millimeter accuracy in going at the cancer from numerous angles. Radiation and image guidance have advanced incredibly over the past 15 years, helping to ensure that we are hitting our target."

Today's LINACs are fast, meaning that some treatments that once took half an hour can now be completed in two minutes. Faster delivery also means reduced likelihood of tumor motion during treatment, which helps protect nearby healthy tissue and critical organs.

"TrueBeam also was designed to enhance the patient experience," the manufacturer, Varian, said in a statement. "Thanks to an advanced communications system, the therapist running it can be in constant contact with the patient."

Most importantly, the LINACs used today at UHS and other medical centers unlock treatment options for patients who might not have been candidates for earlier types of radiation therapy.

If you or a loved one are dealing with cancer and would like to learn if radiation is a possible option, talk with your primary care provider or oncologist. Additional information about UHS' cancer program can be found here.