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Cancer-Killing Machine Debuts at Phoenixville Hospital

Machine is most-advanced in the world and will save patients from traveling for cancer treatment, according to hospital officials

The True Beam machine pinpoints cancer cells using lasers.
The True Beam machine pinpoints cancer cells using lasers.
It cost $4million and can target cancer cells in more ways than were even possible a few short years ago.  Phoenixville Hospital is now home to one of only 1500 of Varian Medical System's True Beam Linear Accelerator radiation machines in the world.

What that long name means for cancer patients in Phoenixville and the region the most-advanced cancer fighting machine (that uses radiation) is now at Phoenixville Hospital, sparing area patients the drive and hassles of going to Penn Medicine's campus in West Philadelphia for treatment.

What this machine does is target cancer tumor cells with precisely-focused doses of radiation.  The same machine can also do CAT scans, read and take patient x-rays and deliver smaller, more exact doses of radiation that kill cancer cells while allowing a patient's body to recover at home and grow "normal" health cells.

The bottom line for cancer patients is one machine that does the work that used to involve moving from one machine to another within the hospital.  Patient visits are scheduled for 20 minutes.  In a normal situation a patient would come in, lie down on a table while resting in a custom-molded support that allows the patient to be put in the exact same position for each treatment.  Once the patient is lying down in the custom-molded padding the machine users lasers, x-rays and CAT scan technology to find a tumors exact location.  Only then the tumor is zapped with radiation.  The radiation does is small enough to allow a patient to get up, walk away and resume normal activities. In some treatments the patient would return the next day or at regular intervals with radiation adjusted to levels needed to kill cancer cells while allowing healthy cells to regenerate.

For Deborah Hanchuruck the new machine meant a much "faster.. one stop shopping" following breast cancer surgery to remove a cancerous tumor.  "It (radiation and chemotherapy) was my insurance policy," Hanchuruck, 59, tells Patch. She was the first patient to be treated on the machine.  As a "thank you" she donated an iPod loaded with her favorite music for going through the treatment to the Cancer Center.  Hanchuruck says she was diagnosed with Stage Two breast cancer after a routine mammogram last spring.  She is now cancer free.

The new four million dollar machine is housed inside a specially built, lead-lined building that cost an addition two million dollars.  The building is brick on the outside and paneled on the inside.  Inside the walls are lined with lead to absorb any ambient radiation from the machine.  The building was constructed off-site and installed adjacent to the Cancer Center entrance on the south side of the hospital.

The Cancer Center is operated by the University of Pennsylvania Ambramson Cancer Center.  

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