How new rapid radiation therapy is revolutionizing cancer treatment

Posted at 11:03 PM, Apr 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-26 12:11:20-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Sue Branam is feeling good about her health.  But one year ago, she was uncertain when she discovered a tumor on her chest.

"It was super scary," Branam said.  "To share it with your children is scary."

Sue was relieved to find out that her cancer could be cured with a type of radiation treatment known as Rapid Arc Radiation Therapy.

Dr. David Randolph, M.D., a radiation oncologist, says the technology is revolutionizing cancer treatment.

"It allows us to give essentially the same doses of radiation,  just over a shorter period of time and with less side effects," Randolph said.

Rapid Arc Radiation Therapy uses technology to deliver intensity modulated radiation therapy to the tumor, but in a way that delivers radiation from different angles around the body.  This allows patients to receive effective doses of radiation while limiting damage to healthy tissues and organs surrounding the tumor.

"The normal tissues, the structures we want to avoid giving radiation to like the heart, the lungs, the spinal cord, they either get no dose or they get a very small amount of radiation dose that won't affect anything," Randolph said.

The Arc treatment can be used for several types of cancer, including skin cancer.  In some cases, this allows doctors to treat cancerous areas on the face or near sensitive parts of the body, without having to perform surgery that can leave scars.

Randolph, who practices radiation oncology with his father at the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Johnston Willis Hospital, says newer radiation treatments, like Arc Therapy, not only shorten treatment times, but eliminates painful and permanent side affects that can be a result of traditional radiation treatments.

Sue Branam says her treatments were quick and easy.

"There was no burning skin, no scars," Branam said. "It did make me a little tired."

One year after her diagnosis, Branam is still cancer free and is focusing on the things she says are most important in her life.

Working For Your Health is a partnership with HCA Healthcare. Serving the greater Richmond area, Chippenham, Henrico Doctors’, Johnston-Willis, Parham Doctors’, and Retreat Doctors’ Hospital are part of HCA Virginia. Watch for Working For Your Health reports Tuesdays on CBS 6 News at 7 p.m.

Watch for Working For Your Health reports on CBS 6.