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Doctors use GPS technology in radiation treatment

By Staff | Oct 27, 2009

Doctors at 21st Century Oncology in Cape Coral are using “the GPS for the body” to treat prostate cancer.
The technology is being utilized to prevent other organs in the body from being damaged during radiation treatment. Although beams of radiation are directed away from healthy tissue, the natural movement of internal organs sometimes damages the bladder or rectum resulting in incontinence, impotence or a loss of bowel function.
Dr. Constantine Mantz, a radiation oncologist at 21st Century Oncology, said the GPS technology “eliminates the guesswork” from delivering treatment.
“These tiny transmitters are placed into the prostate before treatment and used to guide the radiation therapy with a high degree of precision,” said Mantz.
The Calypso Medical’s 4D Localization System uses electromagnetic transponders, each smaller than a grain of rice, that are permanently implanted inside the prostate. It allows the clinician to precisely guide the radiation treatment and monitor the position of the tumor.
According to Mantz, the transponders allow for an accuracy of up to 1/10 of a millimeter.
“In the old days we would make a mark on the skin, line them up and hope those marks represent where the prostate is,” said Mantz. “It (the prostate) can move day to day depending on the fullness of the bladder or rectum.”
Each of the transponders are placed into the prostate with needles using a procedure that mirrors a biopsy.
“It is not any more uncomfortable than having a biopsy done,” said Mantz.
According to a March 2007 clinical study published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics, the localization system is a “clinically efficient and objective localization method for positioning prostate patients undergoing radiation therapy.”
While the new technology is perfecting the delivery of radiation therapy, many centers nationwide are not offering it, specifically because the technology is expensive and most insurance carriers do not cover the procedure.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in Southwest Florida. Radiation treatments last approximately five minutes and are done five times each week for seven to eight weeks, depending on how the patient responds.
“We see a lot of prostate patients,” said Mantz.
According to statistics from the American Cancer Society, approximately 192,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in 2009 and 27,000 men will die from it.
Mantz and other doctors will attend an international conference in Chicago early next month to discuss the use of the new technology. They will show how side effects are diminished and the difference between patients with and without the technology.