New cancer treatment with minimal side effects (Feb 4 is World Cancer Day)
By Sreeparna Chakrabarty, New Delhi, Feb 3 : Bringing hope to hundreds of cancer patients, new technology which delivers high doses of radiation with great accuracy into the human body has been introduced in the Indian capital and will help patients fight the disease with minimum side effects.
The CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System is an advanced method of robotic delivery of high precision radiotherapy for treatment of tumors anywhere in the body.
"This is another form of Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT). Through this technique, we can give high dose radiation at specified locations and spare the normal tissues," P.K. Julka, Head of Oncology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), told IANS.
The technology delivers high doses of radiation with great accuracy in one to five sessions, unlike 30 to 40 sessions for conventional radiotherapy.
There are minimal or no side effects as compared to traditional radiotherapy procedures.
Though the technique is new in Delhi, it has been in use in Bangalore and Chennai for the last six years, Julka said, adding that it is most effective when the disease is detected in the early stages.
"Now, patients in Delhi can avail of this treatment and don't have to go to Chennai or to Bangalore," Julka added.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of adult deaths worldwide, accounting for 7.6 million deaths (around 13 percent of all deaths) in 2008.
A Lancet study published in 2012 showed that cancer killed nearly 556,400 people across India in 2010. In India, among men, oral cancer is the most common cancer, followed by lung cancer, while in women cervical cancer is the most common. This is followed by breast cancer.
According to Sapna Nangia, radiation oncologist at the Indraprastha Apollo hospital, Apollo Chennai was the first to carry out a cyberknife surgery in the country.
"New advancements in technology such as the CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System are a significant development in cancer therapy for patients as well as doctors. It offers the most precise treatment option for a wide range of patients," Nangia told IANS.
S. Hukku, chairman of the Roentgen BLK Radiation Oncology Centre in BLK Hospital, said over 50 patients had been treated with the new technology.
"We have successfully treated over 50 patients without any complications with the help of this technology. Hope is the most important thing needed to overcome any disease, including cancer," said Hukku, who is a former president of the Association of Radiation Oncologists of India.
But the technique, which is quite common abroad, is not very cost effective.
"It has not been introduced in government hospitals. It costs Rs.5 lakh. If the government adopts it, then the cost will come down to Rs.1 lakh. Proposals are there with the government for introduction," said Tejinder Kataria, chairperson of Medanta's radiation oncology division.
Doctors said many cancers can be prevented by avoiding exposure to common risk factors, such as tobacco smoke. In addition, a significant proportion of cancers can be cured by surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy - especially if they are detected early.
They said awareness and timely action is the best way to fight the disease.
"Often it is the lack of awareness that poses a major impediment for successful treatment of cancer. Awareness and timely action form the key to fight the disease," Kataria said.
(Sreeparna Chakrabarty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)