MR-Linac: Precision Radiation Therapy Cancer Treatment Comes to Providence
In 2020 the Robert W. Franz Cancer Institute will bring the first MR-Linac to the Pacific Northwest. One of few cancer centers in the world to be working with this cutting-edge technology, Providence Cancer Institute shows their commitment to helping patients fight cancer with the best treatments available.
For specific tumor types such as non-metastatic pancreatic, liver, and prostate cancer, it is extremely important to track the internal movement happening during your cancer treatment. While you breathe, swallow or digest food, your internal organs move. This movement, even if barely noticeable, causes your tumor to constantly change its location. Standard radiation cancer care treats anywhere the tumor might move to during treatment, including the surrounding healthy tissue and organs. Unlike standard radiation care, the MR-Linac allows your doctor to track, and dose, your tumor in real time, greatly decreasing the amount of radiation to healthy tissue and organs. This means your tumor can receive a stronger cancer destroying radiation treatment, while at the same time decreasing the negative side effects.
"This technology allows us to track the movements and monitor changes in shape of the target and surrounding organs so that we can modify the radiation beams to fit the picture of the moment, not yesterday's. It permits stronger, shorter, more effective treatments to be delivered with potentially less complications," according to Dr. Steven Seung, M.D., FACR, Ph.D., Providence Cancer Institute Radiation Oncology Medical Director.
MR-Linac System Treatment Process
We start with a planning appointment which may include pre-treatment scans and fitting you with accessories that help you lay in a more comfortable and consistent position for each visit.
Using your pre-treatment scans, your doctor will create a personalized plan and schedule you for your first treatment session.
At the beginning of every treatment session we will help you get into the correct position. Next, we will take an MRI scan. The new scan will be compared to the original scan, so your plan can be adjusted for best possible treatment.
During treatment you will be fitted with special headphones to protect your hearing from the MR-Linac noise. These headphones not only protect your ears, but they also act as an intercom to keep you in contact with your doctor in the next room.
The radiation and MRI machines work together in real time so the radiation beams are shaped to maximize the dose to your tumor and minimize the dose to your surrounding organs.
While the radiation beam is on, the MR-Linac is constantly capturing images of your surrounding organs. If your tumor or surrounding organs move past the area allowed by your doctor the radiation beam automatically pauses. When the target moves back into the allowed area the radiation beam automatically turns back on. This allows you to get the best amount of radiation to the correct location.
Every patient will have a different treatment plan, but the length of treatment sessions are usually thirty minutes to one hour, given three to five times a week, over a week or two-week long course.
Talk with your doctor regarding your specific treatment plan and activities.