Cape Town’s Groote Schuur unveils radiation therapy machines for cancer cell destruction

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Radiation therapy at Cape Town’s Groote Schuur hospital received a multi-million rand boost with new advanced machinery, including a R47 million linear accelerator, which uses high energy waves to destroy cancer cells.

Groote Schuur Hospital sees about 3 000 new cancer patients per year, while it does some 33 000 follow ups annually. Oncology specialists say more than half of the new patients will require radiotherapy as part of their treatment plan.

The LINAC as it is known, allows for advanced radiotherapy which means a more targeted treatment.

Oncologists say the numbers of cancer patients are rising year on year across the world with the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimating that it will become the biggest killer on the African continent by 2030.

At Groote Schuur hospital, the most common female cancers treated are breast and cervical cancer, while the most common male cancers include prostate, head and neck or gastro-intestinal cancer.

The acquisition of technologically advanced machinery to deliver radiotherapy is seen as an important milestone in cancer treatment.

Western Cape Health Minister, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo says, “It cannot be that just because we are in a third world country, we must still be providing treatment for that kind, because we are all first world, our clinicians are sought-after across the world. So we wouldn’t want a situation where they were not having the tools of trade and they end up going elsewhere because they are trained and they are specialists.”

Radiation therapy at Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital given a multi-million rand boost:

‘Less time for patients on radiation’

Radiotherapy uses beams of radiation on tumours to shrink and destroy them. It can be used in conjunction with chemotherapy or on its own.

The head of Department of Radiology Oncology at Groote Schuur Hospital Professor Jeanette Parkes says the advanced technology allows for less time for patients on radiation beds.

Parkes says, “Because of its high energy it means we can treat larger patients. Sometimes larger patients which are more prevalent in our setting than in places like Europe had not as elegant treatment. And by elegant I mean a type of treatment that will give them the least chance of side effects. At the end of the day what we are trying to do is to cure the patient with a good quality of life. So these machines allow us to better protect the tissues and treat the cancer.”

A 50 year cervical cancer patient, Geraldine Nelson says she is grateful for the opportunity to be treated with the advanced machinery.

Nelson says, “For me it’s looking forward to come here everyday and be cured by this machine and give us more hope and there is hope for us women, and men and children because what this new innovation they have here at Groote Schuur is so advanced for us and for me as not a medical patients because im getting chemo, twice a week, being here five day a week for five weeks for radiation.”

Groote Schuur also boasts a new brachytherapy suite and service which is most commonly used to treat gynaecological cancers. An orthovoltage treatment unit which uses low energy radiation to treat cancer and other conditions close to the skin’s surface has been installed.

A second LINAC machine will soon be installed at Tygerberg Hospital, making targeted and advanced radiotherapy treatments possible in shorter timeframes. -Reporting by Andile Mbanjwa