New equipment paves way for fewer cancer treatment visits, reduced side effects

Special to Branson Globe

Cancer patients receiving radiation treatment at Cox Medical Center Branson cancer center may soon be making less trips for treatment and experience fewer side effects.

Thanks to a grant from Skaggs Foundation, the cancer center received a new CT Simulator earlier this year. A CT Simulator is a specialized CT scanner used to determine the exact shape, size and location of a tumor to be treated with radiation.

Cancer Center Director Ben Morris said the new equipment is part of CoxHealth’s commitment to providing the latest standard of care to patients. Morris explained that the new CT Simulator has features that the cancer center’s old simulator did not, including four-dimensional scanning, a larger field of view, and an opportunity for stereotactic radiation therapy.


Radiation Therapist Titus Smith makes adjustments to the new CT Simulator at Cox Medical Center Branson as he prepares for a patient. (Special to Branson Globe)

“This new scanner allows us to do what is called four-dimensional scans,” explains Cancer Center Director Ben Morris. “The fourth dimension is motion and that’s the primary reason we wanted this scanner.”

Morris explained that the four-dimensional CT scans provide information that is used during the delivery of daily radiation treatments and determines the treatment field that a tumor moves. This information ensures that an entire tumor is treated while further limiting radiation exposure to healthy tissue.

“Depending on where a tumor is located, when a patient moves during normal breathing, their tumor moves, especially for those with lung or abdominal cancers,” Morris said. “In the past, when we treated a patient, we had to treat a slightly larger volume of the area so that we knew we were treating the entire tumor. When you do a four-dimensional scan, you see how much the tumor moves and you can treat a smaller margin because you know exactly how that tumor is moving. When we know how much the tumor moves, we can treat less tissue. It’s all about minimizing side effects.”

The new CT Scanner is step one of a two-part upgrade that will have big benefits for many patients. This fall, the cancer center will also be receiving a new Linear Accelerator, the machine that provides radiation therapy.

The CT Scanner is a necessary component when used with the Linear Accelerator to offer stereotactic body radiation therapy, a treatment technique that allows for the delivery of curated doses of radiation in fewer treatments.

“In some cases, stereotactic body radiation therapy could be the difference in a patient receiving five treatments of radiation over the course of a few weeks compared to 35 treatments over seven weeks,” Morris said. “This reduces the number of visits to the cancer center and allows patients to either continue to work or spend more time with family.”

Funding for the purchase and installation of the CT Simulator was made possible by a Skaggs Legacy Endowment grant. Since 2013, Skaggs Foundation has awarded more than $5.3 million in Skaggs Legacy Endowment grants. Grants awarded for the 2019-2020 year are set to impact more than 46,500 lives throughout Stone and Taney counties. To learn more about Skaggs Legacy Endowment, visit SkaggsFoundation.org.

To learn more about Cox Medical Center Branson’s cancer center, visit CoxHealth.com.


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