St. Rita’s ‘focuses’ patient care

First Posted: 12/1/2014

LIMA — St. Rita’s Medical Center has made an attempt to “focus” its patient care when it comes to cancer.

The medical center is now offering a more precise and focused form of radiation for cancer patients.

Through the use of a machine called the TrueBeam Accelerator, which looks a little like an MRI or X-ray machine, the hospital is performing a procedure called Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy.

The therapy involves technicians lining up several beams of radiation to target small tumors, usually in the lung, liver or spine and is mostly used for patients with a high surgery risk or who can’t be operated on.

Before the hospital received the machine in February, patients had to travel to Toledo, Kettering or Columbus to get the treatment.

There’s no healing time and the time for treatment is much shorter than for standard radiation as the treatment delivers higher doses.

Radiation can involve about 35 treatments in seven weeks, but SBRT usually entails five treatments during two weeks, according to the medical center.

In addition, the treatment may reduce risk of damage to surrounding tissue.

“We knew about it a couple years ago and knew we had to do this,” said Julie Rowland, director of Radiation Oncology & Cancer Support Services at St. Rita’s. “We would be considered an early adopter of the technology.”

SBRT has been around for about 10 years, but not mainstream for that long. It took St. Rita’s a few years to offer the therapy because it was working to get certification from the American College of Radiology. It was the second community hospital in Ohio to get the equipment.

“It’s the newest, best technology out there at this time,” said Sandra Herrington, lead radiation oncologist for the therapy program.

Offering the procedure locally saves patients the cost and stress of having to travel, Rowland said, something that hits home for Van Wert resident Jean Metzger.

Metzger, 73, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012 and was at first referred to Toledo for treatment in April. However, after a few months, she wasn’t able to make it up north for her treatments anymore.

That’s where SBRT came in. Though it was a different treatment than she was receiving in Toledo, St. Rita’s was easier for her to get to from her home in Van Wert.

Rowland said the machine and procedure have been a “good fit” for St. Rita’s, where doctors have treated about eight patients using SBRT.

“There is enough need in the community to support that level of equipment,” Rowland said about the $2.5 million investment.

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