When Tacoma-area real estate broker Anthony Togmazzini learned he had prostate cancer, his urologist offered him several treatment choices.
Most involved surgery of some sort.
But a new precisely targeted radiation treatment at MultiCare’s Tacoma General Hospital caught Togmazzini’s attention.
It promised a relatively short treatment period, no surgery or incisions, no recovery period, and no or minimal side effects.
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It was a treatment plan the 69-year-old found eminently agreeable.
Thus Togmazzini became one of the first patients treated by Tacoma General’s new $3.5 million CyberKnife robotic radiation delivery system, one of three in the state and the newest. The hospital’s MultiCare Regional Cancer Treatment Center began using the new technology last week.
Older versions of the CyberKnife, made by Accuray, are in use at Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center and in a Vancouver hospital . The treatment uses a robotic radiation delivery device that can fire multiple beams of radiation in a precisely targeted pattern at a malignant tumor or growth.
The robotic arm moves around the patient, who lies on a padded table during the 30-minute to 65-minute treatment.
By moving around the patient in a computer-choreographed dance, the CyberKnife can administer a stronger, more tightly targeted radiation treatment than with conventional methods, said Dr. Suraj Singh , a MultiCare radiation oncologist.
The new device, said the cancer center’s administrator, David Nicewonger, not only is less invasive , but also provides hope for some patients whose tumors were once considered inoperable.
Because the radiation is so targeted, it affects surrounding healthy tissue less than normal radiation treatments would. That means that patients who’ve had recurrences of tumors can be treated again with radiation because they’ve not already received a maximum allowable dose of radiation to healthy tissues.
The robot’s precision also allows treatment of complex or oddly shaped tumors close to vital organs or body structures that could not be attacked otherwise, Singh said.
Tumors near the spine are examples of such growths that the robot can successfully attack without injuring the delicate structures nearby, he said.
The CyberKnife also offers a shorter treatment regimen. Most patients receive one to five treatments, said Singh. That compares with 30 to 35 treatments with less precise radiation devices.
Total treatment costs range about $15,000 to $35,000, said Nicewonger, a savings over conventional treatments because there are fewer of them. The treatment isn’t experimental, so most insurance plans will pay for it, said hospital officials.
The hospital expects to treat about 150 patients a year with the CyberKnife. Already, less than a week after the CyberKnife went active, about 30 patients are either being treated or are preparing for treatment, Nicewonger said.
Togmazzini, who underwent the second of four scheduled sessions Monday, said he’s pleased with the process.
“I needed to do something about my prostate. This was an logical choice to make,” he said. “I’ve got no regrets.”