IN THE DTC, A ONE-OF-A-KIND RADIATION TREATMENT CENTER | by
Ellen Muench had a bucket list for post-retirement in 2013, but the former flight attendant had to postpone it while she underwent treatment for breast cancer. Her diagnosis wasn’t enough of a blow, though; it came within two days of her husband, David’s, diagnosis of prostate cancer.
After she underwent a lumpectomy and chemotherapy, the next step was radiation. This time Ellen, 66, chose her provider: Century Cancer Centers, where David was being treated. Century Cancer Center is the only radiation clinic in the Denver Technology Center and is independently operated.
“I liked my medical oncologist for the chemotherapy, but I chose Century for my radiation treatment because I saw how Dave was treated,” says Ellen, who finished treatment last July.
Ellen had accompanied her husband to his “doc stops” to see Dr. Barry Blyton, the radiation oncologist at Century. “I shopped around,” Ellen recalls. “The other radiologist [at a different treatment center] just handed me a business card and a pamphlet, but at Century I felt comfortable. Dr. Blyton was most respectful and explained everything before I started.”
Explaining things to patients is important to Blyton, a soft-spoken physician who allows two hours for an initial consult and illustrates how radiation works by incorporating a slide presentation and computerized animations. He’ll even draw a cartoon to simplify things. “Some patients who are engineers like to know all about it,” he says, “but I understand it’s not something everyone will be that interested in.
“We want patients to know what’s going on inside the machine when they’re on the table,” Blyton says. “The patients are the ones who are going to benefit, so I just think it’s more helpful to involve them in the treatment.”
Not all radiation treatment is the same because not all cancers are the same. Last June, Century Cancer Center became the first radiation treatment center in Colorado to acquire Calypso® technology, which enables super-targeted radiation accuracy by “following” the cancer area as it moves, such as while the patient is breathing— like GPS for the body. [See sidebar]
Named for the company that pioneered it, Calypso is most useful in targeting cancers in areas such as the prostate and breast, and soon, the lungs. For Century and its patients, acquiring this newest technology is a giant step toward the most accurate radiation treatment for prostate cancer, which is the most common cancer Blyton treats. Breast cancer is the second most common.
“… at Century I felt comfortable. Dr. Blyton was most respectful and explained everything before I started.”
For most cancers, Century uses IMRT— Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy—which enables the radiation dose to be more exactly shaped to the tumor. IMRT’s radiation beams are actually broken up into “beamlets, or pixels,” whose intensity can be adjusted individually, thereby limiting the amount of radiation delivered to healthy tissue.
The Muenches’ radiation was successful. David experienced very few side effects— mainly fatigue attributed to 45 days of treatment. His PSA went from 8.5 initially to 1.0 three months after treatment, and he says the Century staff was great. “The technicians explained everything.”
Ellen has done well, too, and as for her 2014 bucket list: learn Spanish; take yoga and Zumba classes; learn to swim; and cull “a basement full of stuff.”
David’s and Ellen’s cancers were detected early, and they and the Century Cancer Center team encourage yearly screenings. For men older than 50, Century offers free PSA screenings on a walk-in basis.
When pressed, Blyton expresses great pride in the Century environment. “Our focus is a family feel, delivering accurate and efficient care, in a convenient location that minimizes drive time for people who work in or live near the DTC. But we’re not an assembly line, either,” he adds. “We want to inspire confidence and make patients feel comfortable and their families welcome.”
GPS for the Body: How Calypso® Works
In June 2012, Century Cancer Center became the first radiation oncology center in Colorado to acquire Calypso®, a mapping technology to “follow” individual cancers, or the organs containing the cancer, in real time—like GPS for the body. Named for Calypso Medical, which pioneered it, the system enables radiation oncology clinicians to keep the cancer target in the path of the radiation beam continuously. The Calypso system can detect the slightest tumor movement, so the clinician can reposition the patient if necessary and use tight margins to minimize radiation to healthy tissue.
Three beacons, each about the size of a grain of rice, are implanted in or near the tumor. As the cancer area moves, the beacon allows the radiation team to monitor it. Calypso isn’t for every kind of cancer, and the implantation of the beacon (s) is an extra step, Blyton explains, so he and other specialists collaborate on the protocols.
For more information visit: www.centurycancercenters.com/Denver
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