Despite such reports, IMRT remains one the most powerful cancer treatments, and Loyola University Health System employs extensive safety measures to ensure patients receive the proper doses, said radiation oncologist Dr. Kevin Albuquerque. (Loyola was not the subject of a recent New York Times series on radiation injuries.)
IMRT uses computer-controlled linear accelerators to deliver precise radiation doses to a tumor or areas within a tumor. It focuses high doses within the tumor while minimizing the dose to surrounding normal tissue.
At Loyola, a team of physicians, therapists and physicists does several levels of checking before treating a patient. For example, the team does a trial run on a “phantom patient” with radiation detectors. This ensures the machine is delivering the proper dose of radiation.
Loyola is one of three hospitals in Illinois, and the only academic medical center, to be accredited by the American College of Radiology. The accreditation assesses the qualifications of personnel, policies and procedures, equipment specifications, quality assurance activities, patient safety and quality of patient care.
Loyola is inspected by the State of Illinois twice a year to ensure the hospital meets state regulations on radiation use. Staff is licensed by the state. And calibrations on linear accelerators are evaluated annually by the Radiological Physics Center.
The Department of Radiation Oncology has a comprehensive quality assurance program that includes tests on equipment and software on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis, said John Roeske, PhD, director of physics. These tests are based on state regulations and recommendations from the American Association of Physicists in Medicine.
Treatment plans are created by board-certified dosimetrists and reviewed by physicians, physicists and therapists before and during the course of treatment. (A dosimetrist is a key member of the radiation oncology team who specializes in the use of computers for radiation treatment planning.) Weekly physics checks are performed to ensure the treatment plan is being implemented as intended, and all patient charts are reviewed.
Radiation therapy can cure certain head and neck cancers, lymphomas, cervical cancer, anal cancer and cancer of the vocal cords, thus avoiding surgery.
“It’s one of the most powerful weapons against cancer we have,” Albuquerque said.
Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, Loyola University Health System is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and 25 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus, Loyola University Hospital, is a 561-licensed-bed facility. It houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus in Melrose Park includes the 264-bed community hospital, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness and the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Care Center.