Gloucester, VA –Riverside Middle Peninsula Cancer Center's Radiation Oncology Team has completed a nearly year-long construction project to install a new, state-of-the-art linear accelerator and returned to treating patients on the Middle Peninsula Wednesday, April 1. Riverside began installing the new linear accelerator in 2014, during which time patients from the Middle Peninsula traveled to Williamsburg and Newport News for their treatments. Riverside helped provide transportation through a paid transportation service and with community volunteers.

Treatment Room

"People from all walks of life, people who could go anywhere in the world for their cancer treatment, choose to come here," said Paula Dunston-Cottee, Senior Radiation Therapist and Manager of Riverside Radiation Oncology-Gloucester. "We don't just treat the cancer;we treat the patient…the whole patient. And with our new linear accelerator we have the best, state-of-the-art treatment right here in Gloucester."

The linear accelerator provides radiation treatments for cancer patients as prescribed by a physician. To accommodate the new machine, the center had to expand the thick concrete-walled room where radiation treatments are performed. "The technology changes and improves and we have improved with it." said Dunston-Cottee. The first linear accelerator was installed in the practice when the center first opened in 2004.

The new linear accelerator, an Elekta Infinity, delivers precision dose conformance, fast treatment speed and ultra-low dose safeguards. The new technology allows Riverside to treat the cancer while also protecting the patient. The Elekta Infinity is highly responsive and features an intuitive treatment system that allows the radiation therapists even more time to focus on patients and their families. "The fear of the unknown is hard for anybody," Dunston-Cottee said. "We work with everyone to make them as comfortable as possible, the patients…the families… we are all on this journey together."

Radiation therapists, with the new linear accelerator, have increased flexibility, allowing them to control multiple treatment parameters while the beam is rotating. Its accuracy and speed in delivery is state of the art. Among the benefits, for example, for men receiving prostate cancer treatments, is the delivery of the radiation so precisely that those patients no longer have to have an invasive procedure completed before radiation. "With this level of precise treatment, we are able to protect the surrounding tissues and reduce risks association with radiation," Dunston-Cottee said. "Our job as therapists is to keep our patients as comfortable as possible and deliver the most accurate treatment." It all makes for a much more comfortable experience for the patients, who are already grappling with a cancer diagnosis.

The less time a patient spends on the treatment table the better. Shorter treatment times not only improve patient comfort –the radiation therapy must be performed in a room where the patient is alone and watched and heard by closed circuit TV to reduce the risk of radiation exposure to anyone else –but also reduces the inaccuracies resulting from patient movement during treatment delivery. "More than anything, our staff is happy to be back here, at home, treating patients, said Dunston-Cottee. "We become like family to our patients. They come back to see us after their treatments are completed and now we're back. Home."

Published: April 10, 2015