Sunday, April 08, 2007

Idle Machines Mean More Dangerous Surgeries

I received IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) for my cancer prior to my last surgery. Back then, it was really new and I was the first person that the cancer center used it on in connection with a state of the art immobilization device. Together, the two machines enabled the oncologist to give me a higher dose of radiation than he would have otherwise been able to do because of my tumor's proximity to my heart. This, in turn, made it easier for my surgeons to differentiate between the cancerous tissue and the healthy tissue which, in a case like mine where the tumor is surrounded by vital organs, made it possible for me to survive a very dangerous procedure.

If they had not been able to tell where the tumor stopped and where the healthy tissue began, then they'd have had to take out a section of my aorta and replace it with what is basically a piece of tubing. That would have meant a lot longer stay in the hospital and a much longer recovery period. It would also likely cause me to have an exacerbation of my lupus symptoms for the rest of my life because the artificial section would almost certainly be attacked by my immune system from hell. The worsening of this co-existing condition would mean that I wouldn't be as qualified a candidate for further surgeries.

I know that this sounds like a really long cascade but I think it illustrates how even a single factor can mean the difference between a cancer patient living for several years (with a very good quality of life) and increased suffering with a much shorter life span. That is why this really pisses me off:

Radiotherapy Machines Lie Idle

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