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New radiation technology targets cancer more precisely

By By ANNA M. LEE Managing Editor
Area cancer patients who require radiation therapy have a new, more precise option for treatment at the Escambia Radiation Oncology Center.
Since February, the center has been treating patients with intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which zones in on the area to be treated more accurately that simpler technologies used in the past.
Less complex technologies radiate cancer with four large beams that create a block-like treatment area around the cancer. IMRT's many beams mean that less radiation hits areas of the body that do not need treatment.
Though the technology is used for all cancers, its accuracy makes it especially useful in treating cancer of the prostate, throat and breast, Hixson said.
In the case of throat cancer, IMRT to some degree spares the salivary glands from radiation, which can alleviate mouth dryness -- a common problem with radiation of the throat.
With breast cancer, IMRT minimizes radiation to the heart.
The technology has also been proven to cause fewer side effects, both short term and long term, Hixson said.
Bringing IMRT technology to this area was a $2 million investment for the Escambia Radiation Oncology Center and its sister practice, South Baldwin Oncology in Foley.
Before the treatment was offered here, Hixson attended a training course taught by Joseph Ting, a radiation physician known nationally and internationally as a pioneer in developing IMRT techniques. Ting then traveled to Brewton to train the center's staff in IMRT.
The Escambia Radiation Oncology Center is a pioneer in its own right, making this technology available when it is not yet widely used.
The center, which opened in 1995, treats 15 to 25 patients each day, year-round, Hixson said. Patients come to the center from all over Escambia County and from Escambia County (Fla.), Covington County, Butler County, Monroe County and Baldwin County.