Radiation therapy units installed at cancer centre of the north

When the BC Cancer Agency Centre for the North opens in late 2012, northern BC residents will be able to receive radiation in the region.

When the BC Cancer Agency Centre for the North opens in late 2012, northern BC residents will be able to receive radiation therapy for the first time in their home region.

The new service will be provided through two state-of-the-art linear accelerators (radiation therapy units) now in place at the facility being constructed in Prince George. The two pieces of equipment are valued at more than $3 million each.

Linear accelerators provide the radiation therapy used to treat a variety of cancers. Radiation therapy makes use of high-energy x-rays to kill tumour cells. Radiation therapy is useful as curative treatment for some types of cancer, and also to relieve symptoms if cancer spreads. Radiation may be used on its own, or in conjunction with chemotherapy or surgery.

The radiation therapy units at the BC Cancer Agency Centre for the North are the most high-end and technologically integrated units available on the market. The centre also features doorless treatment rooms, allowing patients to undergo high-dose radiation therapy without the need for a heavy lead door, providing a less intimidating environment.

The units arrived in March, and since then, the centre’s medical physics team has worked to install and program them. Ongoing calibrating and rigorous testing will continue over the next several months to ensure the devices will be ready to provide safe and accurate treatment.

The new facility will be the sixth regional cancer centre operated by the BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority. The other centres are in Abbotsford, Kelowna, Surrey, Vancouver and Victoria.

The new centre will serve more than 750 patients annually. About 60 per cent of people diagnosed with cancer receive radiation therapy at some point in the course of their treatment.

The Northern Cancer Control Strategy is a joint partnership between Northern Health, BC Cancer Agency and the Provincial Health Services Authority. It is focused on enhancing the continuum of cancer services in the North, including prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, supportive and palliative care.