Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Radiation Therapy

I have been in radiation therapy since my surgery. The idea is that the radiation (in combination with chemotherapy) kills the microscopic bits of tumor tissue around the edges of the tumor cavity that were too small for the neurosurgeon to see or remove surgically. The process lasts 6 weeks, and so this is my last week. To mark this occassion, I brought my camera in yesterday. Some of the results are shown below...

View of yours truly as seen on the video monitor. (I didn't know they sold these machines at BigLots! The price is certainly right...)

For each patient, they make a mask out of a plastic mesh material that can be pressed to fit the contours of the patient's head, and then cured (somehow) to harden it in this shape. This allows them to precisely position the patient's head each time, so that the beam irradiates the same spot every time. Didn't Hannibal Lechter wear one of these things?

The radiation source is a linear accelerator that generates X-ray radiation at specific energies. The entire machine can be rotated on several axes so that the beam can come from any desired angle, depending on the location of the tumor, and the locations of important things that shouldn't be in the beam path (eyes, etc.). This is a lot better than the alternative of rotating the patient!

I must say I have been very impressed with all of the people who work in the Radiation Therapy department at Huntington Hospital, from Dr. Lam, who heads the department, to the expert physicists who design the procedures, to the technicians who actually run the machines. One of the positives of this whole thing has been meeting this great group of people!