June 27, 2023

Advanced precision radiation treatment now available at UW Health in northern Illinois

Dr. Benjamin Durkee
Dr. Benjamin Durkee, radiation oncologist, UW Health in northern Illinois

ROCKFORD, Ill. – New technology at the SwedishAmerican Regional Cancer Center is offering patients more precise radiation treatment options for cancer care.

The center is now using a linear accelerator designed specifically for high-precision radiosurgery, the process of using focused beams of radiation to destroy cancer tissue without incisions.

It can target cancer with millimeter accuracy and treat multiple tumors at the same time, according to Dr. , radiation oncologist, UW Health in northern Illinois.

This linear accelerator moves around a patient who is laying down, providing high doses of radiation that are beamed directly at the tumor noninvasively; a process known as stereotactic precision radiotherapy. The beam is then shaped to each tumor with the help of a device called a high-definition multileaf collimator, which shapes the beam’s path and intensity while aimed at tumors.

“This technology really is a game-changer for Rockford,” he said. “It is state of the art and only recently available at high-volume academic medical centers. Patients would otherwise have to drive to Madison or Chicago to access the same technology.”

Historically, when there were multiple cancer tumors, radiation therapy had to be given with standard external beam therapy at a lower dose to a broader area, which comes with some limitations, according to Durkee.

“This newer technology uses supercomputers and some pretty advanced hardware,” he said.

The result is a higher concentration of radiation to the tumor, meaning more aggressive treatment, fewer appointments and faster treatment, Durkee said.

Radiation can cause long-term damage when applied to sensitive areas like the brain, eyes, lungs or spine, which is why the precision offered by stereotactic radiotherapy is so important, according to Durkee.

“If we can provide this care faster and more accurately, not only are we getting people back to their lives sooner, we’re also sending them away with fewer negative side effects to manage,” he said.