Janelle Saffin MP, Krystel Fuller (radiation therapist), Malcolm Marshall (lying down) of the Northern NSW Local Health District Board, Deanne Younger (radiation therapist) and Prof Tom Shakespeare.
Janelle Saffin MP, Krystel Fuller (radiation therapist), Malcolm Marshall (lying down) of the Northern NSW Local Health District Board, Deanne Younger (radiation therapist) and Prof Tom Shakespeare.

Accelerating cancer battle

IT WAS a tight schedule but good cause for celebration yesterday when health officials and staff showed off Lismore Base Hospital's second linear accelerator radiation machine for treating cancer patients.

The plethora of health executives, cancer specialists, other doctors, assisting staff, politi- cians and media had to be in and out of the "Linac" room in half an hour because there were people waiting for treatment.

Thankfully, not as many as in the past.

"The waiting list is almost gone," North Coast Cancer Institute area director Prof Tom Shakespeare said.

"We've been very lucky in obtaining experienced new staff, which has also helped.

"These machines are a great advance in technology on even five years ago.

"They are very focused, very accurate and will be used more and more in the treatment of different types of cancer."

Most of the funding for the $2.7m machine has come from the Federal Government and Page MP Janelle Saffin said it had taken "lots of lobbying and lots of hard work". "Health is my priority," Ms Saffin said.

The second 8.5-tonne linear accelerator has been gradually introduced into service since January and brings Lismore Base up to speed with Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie, which also have two.

It means more people with cancer can get their treatment locally rather than have to travel to Coffs Harbour, the Gold Coast or Brisbane.

With the two machines, up to 800 patients a year can be handled in Lismore, helping meet demand as the population ages and prevent disruptions when the other linear accelerator goes offline for maintenance.

"We can treat deep-seated tumours, such as those in the abdomen, without overdosing healthy tissue with radiation," Prof Shakespeare said.

"It also allows us to treat cancers closer to the surface, such as breast cancer."



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