Tygerberg Hospital unveils new radiation therapy machine for cancer patients

The new Varian TrueBeam LINAC machine was unveiled at Tygerberg Hospital. Photo: Independent Newspapers Archive

The new Varian TrueBeam LINAC machine was unveiled at Tygerberg Hospital. Photo: Independent Newspapers Archive

Published Nov 16, 2023


Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town has unveiled its new Varian TrueBeam linear accelerator (LINAC) machine this week.

The machine is one of three in use in the Western Cape, one is used within the private health sector and the other is being used at Groote Schuur Hospital.

The LINAC machine produces high-energy particles or waves in the form of beams that destroy or damage cancer cells. These beams are focused on the specific part of the patient’s body where the cancerous cells are located.

This shrinks the tumour or prevents the tumour from growing back after it has been removed with an operation. A single session on the machine takes about 15 to 30 minutes and most patients can complete their treatment course on an outpatient basis.

There are only three machines in use in the Western Cape, one in the private health sector and one (pictured here) at Groote Schuur Hospital. File Picture

Up until November 13, the hospital has treated 81 cancer patients on the machine and performed nearly 1,329 daily treatments.

To date, five therapeutic radiographers and radiation therapists (RTTs) received training and subsequently rotated another five RTTs through the machine to provide them with in-house training.

Tygerberg Hospital’s division of radiation oncology sees nearly 2,250 new cancer patients a year of which nearly 1,800 require radiotherapy as part of their treatment.

“The installation of the new VARIAN TrueBeam linear accelerator expands our arsenal of advanced radiotherapy treatment capabilities including intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) and Stereotactic Radiotherapy,” newly appointed head of the division of radiation oncology at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital, Dr Henriette Burger said.

“Patients receiving radiotherapy after the removal of breast cancers will specifically benefit from new the breathing-regulated technologies,” she said.

“All these advances enable us to reduce treatment, side-effects and improve the accuracy of radiotherapy. Being an academic institution, the hospital trains the next generation of radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, and medical physicists for South Africa and the rest of Africa,” Burger said.

“Having a TrueBeam LINAC further ensures that we produce professionals that are confident in working with these state-of-the-art technologies.”

Head of the Western Cape’s Department of Health and Wellness, Dr Keith Cloete said the new machine enables the large public hospital to expand its service offering to clients.

“It confirms our commitment to putting the needs of our patients at the centre of their care. The LINAC machine is a crucial tool in modern medicine in the treatment of cancer and to do various medical procedures,” Cloete said.

“It enables our hardworking and dedicated staff to deliver precise and targeted radiation therapy, thereby significantly improving the health and well-being of our patients,” he said.

“These machines bring hope and provide an important sense of worth to our patients being treated for various types of cancers.”

Western Cape MEC for Health and Wellness, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo said cancer remains a prevalent disease that affects many people’s lives in the province.

She said this is why maintaining and investing in modern health infrastructure is important.

“Our facilities are our vehicles for service delivery where we provide life-saving care to residents, especially in terms of oncological care,” Nomafrench said.

“The addition of this new machine will greatly capacitate Tygerberg Hospital to continue to be a crucial component of our healthcare system in our province. I look forward to the positive impact this investment will have on our patients going forward.”

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