Treatment options are discussed at a multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting which is attended by oncology doctors, radiographers, surgeons and specialist Macmillan cancer nurses.
Where appropriate we use radiotherapy to treat a range of cancer sites including (but not limited to) bladder, brain, breast, gynaecological cancers, cancers of the head and neck, lung, oesophagus, prostate, rectum and skin cancers.
The above picture shows one of Northampton General Hospital's new treatment rooms.
New techniques and developments in radiotherapy mean we are now treating cancers more effectively. We are able to do this by using increasingly sophisticated techniques, and having our expert radiographers and dosimetrists individually tailor each patient's treatment. These include:
Beams are shaped specifically to individual tumour sites, and organs that are not being treated, but are radiosensitive, are shielded from the radiation, for example, heart or lungs in a breast treatment or a rectum in a prostate treatment. This ensures the best possible quality of life after treatment.
Intensity Modulated RadioTherapy (IMRT)
IMRT is a type of conformal radiotherapy where the dose varies across the width of the beam. This allows different parts of the tumour to be given different doses whilst still shielding other organs.
Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT)
VMAT is an extension to IMRT, allowing the treatment machine to rotate during delivery. For some treatment sites, it allows us even greater control over the doses received by both tumour and healthy organs.
Image Guided RadioTherapy – (IGRT)
IGRT uses a range of imaging techniques to verify that patients are in the correct position for treatment. We use x-ray images to check positioning before treatment.
Brachytherapy is quite different to conventional radiotherapy. Where conventional radiotherapy uses radiation produced by a linac and is directed at the patient, brachytherapy uses radiation from radioactive elements, which are placed inside the body either for a length of time or permanently.
Another form of brachytherapy is using unsealed sources, where a patient ingests a small amount of a radioactively labelled drug. The drug is targeted to go to a specific sight in the body, where the radiation is then able to destroy the cancer cells. This technique is mainly used in the treatment of thyroid cancers.
Northampton General Hospital is involved in a number of nationwide trials. Trials are important for a number of reasons, they can help us better understand certain elements of our treatment techniques.
All trials Northampton General Hospital participate in are approved by National Cancer Research Institute and have been granted governance and ethics approval.