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Published on October 16, 2008

Mercy is first in Cedar Rapids to offer new outpatient treatment for lung cancer

CEDAR RAPIDS-A new treatment procedure for patients with lung cancer is now available in Cedar Rapids for the first time, through Mercy Medical Center's respiratory therapy department and Hall Radiation Center.

The procedure, called endobronchial brachytherapy, will relieve symptoms for patients with advanced-stage lung cancer. Mercy's radiation oncologists and pulmonologists place a radioactive seed directly into a malignant tumor to reduce its size and ease the patient's breathing.

High-Dose Rate (HDR) brachytherapy is considered an especially effective tool in treating cancer. This lung cancer treatment helps contain radiation within the tumor site, reducing damage to surrounding, healthy lung tissue. The other advantage of brachytherapy is that it requires fewer visits than other traditional radiation treatments.

In endobronchial brachytherapy, catheters are implanted into the lung's bronchus (breathing tube) using a bronchoscope. Once the bronchoscope is removed, a thin tube remains in place for about 30 minutes, delivering a highly-radioactive dose directly to the site of the tumor.

Dr. Vijay Subramaniam, M.D., Respiratory & Critical Care Associates, lauded the new treatment as a welcome advancement in cancer care available in Cedar Rapids.

"In the appropriate patient, brachytherapy allows for effective localized radiation treatment of lung cancer without affecting the surrounding healthy lung," Dr. Subramaniam says. "Brachytherapy can benefit lung cancer patients by providing a high dose of radiation to tumors in the airway. This can help stop bleeding and open up blocked lobes of the lung."

Mercy is the only hospital in Cedar Rapids to offer this out-patient procedure, which takes less than two hours.

Endobronchial brachytherapy is considered a form of palliative treatment. Palliative care focuses on relieving pain and other symptoms of serious illness to improve patients' comfort and quality of life.

Mercy's Hall Radiation Center begins offering this new treatment this week.

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