An unexpected diagnosis of early-stage breast cancer last year for Shuntrece Epps and subsequent treatment including surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy instilled a new desire to enjoy life’s firsts, such as floating the river or flying to Hawaii to celebrate her 25th wedding anniversary.
The cancer survivor began embracing firsts after she discovered she would be the first patient to be treated using the recently installed Varian TrueBeam® linear accelerator at the W. Temple Webber Cancer Center at CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System.
The new machine is the second TrueBeam® linear accelerator with RapidArc® and HyperArc® technology at CHRSTUS St. Michael and is more accurate than previous models, using high-energy radiation to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells by damaging their DNA. This newer model is precise enough to ensure there is minimal damage to the surrounding healthy cells. “This amazing technology enables us to treat more challenging cancer cases in the lung, breast, head and neck, abdomen, liver, prostate and other regions with pinpoint accuracy and precision at higher levels than possible with previous generation linear accelerators,” said the center’s director, Charlotte McKamie, RN, MSN, OCN.
Epps said she was initially apprehensive to be first.
“I prayed to seek answers about what I should do and felt He guided me to be treated right here at home close to family and friends,” she said. “My prayers helped reduce my uneasiness, and I was happy to know we have such advanced technology and equipment as well as a skilled cancer treatment team at St. Michael.”
The integrated image guidance system helps ensure the patient’s tumor and normal organs are positioned with millimeter accuracy and motion is properly controlled during treatment, said Johns Hopkins-trained Dr. Charles Matthews, medical director for hospital cancer services.
The technology at CHRISTUS St. Michael matches that from even the biggest medical centers in the country. “Our two TrueBeam® systems enable our medical team to harness the latest innovations to fight cancer,” Matthews said. “I have been trained at some of the best academic centers in the country. Thanks to community support, the same technology used to treat patients at renowned academic centers across the country is available for residents of the Texarkana region.”