Radiation therapist Maryann Panizza tries out the comfort levels of the new Varian Truebeam Linear Accelerator at Dunedin Hospital. Photo by Dan Hutchinson
Radiation therapist Maryann Panizza is a picture of health as
she climbs on to the new $6.3 million linear accelerator at
Dunedin Hospital - and those who follow her will hope for the
The Varian Truebeam Linear Accelerator (Linac) machine will
help meet increasing demand for cancer treatment in the
region, boosting capacity by 20%.
It is part of a drive by the Southern District Health Board
to improve cancer treatment in the area and just yesterday,
the board also confirmed three new specialist nurses would be
guiding people through their treatment.
The Linac machine delivers a high-energy dose of targeted
X-rays, which destroy cancer cells while sparing surrounding
normal tissue. It replaces an 18-year-old model.
SDHB allied health director (medical directorate) and
clinical charge radiation therapist Noelle Bennett said the
machine would allow cancers to be treated more quickly and
''This machine is going to make a great deal of difference to
the treatment we can give to cancer patients in our region,
and we should also be able to help patients from other
centres,'' Mrs Bennett said.
During the changeover to the new machine, the Southern Blood
and Cancer Centre team had worked extended hours and weekend
shifts to ensure cancer patients continued to get timely
treatment, Mrs Bennett said.
The system includes X-ray and CT-scan imaging techniques,
known as image-guided radiotherapy, to identify and locate
the tumour before and during treatment.
Installing the machine had required the extensive
modification of a protective ''bunker'' to shield staff and
patients from its high-energy output.
Dunedin Hospital radiation therapists were delighted with the
performance of the new Linac machine, Mrs Bennett said.
The SDHB's three new cancer nurse co-ordinators are also
settling into their roles as part of a central Government
project to give cancer patients support right through their
SDHB nursing director medical directorate Sally O'Connor said
the nurses were dedicated to guiding the most complex
patients through treatment and follow-up. They would act as a
point of contact for patients referred with a high suspicion
of cancer, through diagnosis, and into treatment.