Radiotherapy unit helps hospital

LISMORE Base Hospital’s cancer unit will have its second radiotherapy unit by the end of next month.

News of the second linear accelerator’s impending arrival comes only two months after the appointment of a radiation oncologist, Professor Michael McKay to run the first one.

However, taking into account installation, calibration and staff recruitment and training, the new device was not expected to be treating patients until late this year.

Prof McKay said the existing device was currently providing treatment for about 25 patients, but he hoped to see that increased to 35 in the near future.

The radiotherapy unit was providing treatment for most cancers, primarily breast and prostate cancers, followed by skin cancers.

It was seeing relatively few cases of lung or brain cancer because the specialists needed to treat those types of cancer were not based at Lismore.

A spokeswoman for the Northern NSW Local Health Network said the existing device currently had an average waiting list of 34 days.

However, The Northern Star has heard reports of patients being told they would have to wait up to two months for a turn at the machine.

Prof McKay said recent reports on wait times had put the list at about six weeks, which he said was well within safe treatment deadlines for most cancers.

In fact, a certain amount of waiting could mean for better outcomes, because it gave Prof McKay time to consult with patients and better target their treatment.

So far, about two thirds of the patients being treated at Lismore Base came from within a 10km radius of the city, he said.

The remainder came from much further afield – in some cases patients from distant areas choose to have treatment at Lismore Base to be close to local families.

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