Giving tattoos to people undergoing radiation therapy treatment to mark the area to be treated is standard practice in many hospitals, but it might not be for much longer. A new advancement in radiation science will hopefully eliminate the need for these unwanted and permanent markings on cancer patients’ bodies that constantly remind them of the pain of cancer treatment.
“Scars fade, but tattoos don’t, so I am just so pleased I won’t have that visual reminder,” says Amanda Durack, who was recently diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. Luckily, Durack will not have to have markers tattooed on her skin for radiation treatment.
The technology, called AlignRT or surface-guided radiation therapy, is currently only available at GenesisCare’s cancer treatment centre at the Mater Hospital in Sydney, Australia. It utilizes a 3D stereoscopic camera to determine the patient’s position before and during radiation therapy to help accurately deliver the dose to the correct place on the body. This system eliminates the need to physically mark the body to ensure precision and accuracy.
For many patients with breast cancer and other types of cancer, tattoos are the last thing on their mind, because survival and recovery are first and foremost on their to-do list. However, many patients find that after they’ve survived cancer, it’s painful to see the reminders of the terrifying ordeal etched on their skin every day. The tattoos, which are permanent and undesirable, can make it difficult for patients to return to a feeling of normalcy and confidence after cancer.
“For some patients, this will eliminate the added emotional impact of having permanent ink marks, which can be an unwanted reminder of their cancer diagnosis or treatment,” says Dr. Marita Morgia, Radiation Oncologist at GenesisCare Mater Hospital.
Around half of all cancer patients will receive radiation therapy as part of their treatment, making it important that the therapy be as comfortable and easy as possible. We can’t wait to see this technology become available around the world to help radiation therapy be accurate without leaving a lasting negative impact on the people it treats. What an amazing invention!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?