Computer technology for radiotherapy planning

FORCE has bought two touchscreen graphics tablets for radiotherapy planning in the RD&E’s oncology department at a cost of £3,186.

The new computers, similar to those used in graphic design, reduce the time needed to plan treatment, improve accuracy and potentially lead to better outcomes for patients.

Those suffering from head and neck cancers, pelvic tumours such as rectal, anal and cervical cancers and thoracic tumours such as lung or oesophageal cancers are set to benefit most. Wacom 50

Modern radiotherapy, known as conformal radiation therapy, gives doctors much more control in treating cancer.

Special computers use CT scans to create a 3D map of the tumour. Beams can then be delivered from several directions much more accurately, to within 1-2 millimetres. It means maximum doses of radiation delivered to the cancer and minimum exposure to healthy tissue.

Consultant clinical oncologist and FORCE trustee Dr Jenny Forrest explains: “We currently draw our target and normal tissues on CT scans using a mouse. This process is very time consuming, taking many hours for any individual patient. The new tablets allow us to draw directly on to the screen with a stylus and manipulate the image to get the best definition. Contouring directly on to a touchscreen has been shown to be more accurate and quicker than using a mouse. Studies have shown that accuracy of radiotherapy contouring can affect patient outcome and improve survival. Inaccurate contouring will mean missing the target and potentially less likelihood of a cure and/or more long term side effects.”

FORCE has spent around £1million on cutting edge equipment to enhance patient care at the RD&E and anyone treated for cancer locally has likely benefitted from kit purchased by the charity.

Making funds available to buy the most advanced life-saving technology available for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer is one of FORCE’s key objectives. It is part of its ongoing strategy to ensure that local cancer patients along with their carers, families and friends are fully supported.