Abben Cancer Center Plans Technology Upgrade

posted on Thursday, October 31, 2019 in General

Abben Cancer Center of Spencer Hospital is preparing for a major technology upgrade for its radiation oncology services, which will provide greater treatment options for cancer care in the region.

“Since 1997, Abben Cancer Center has provided a broad spectrum of cancer care to our region. During those years, Spencer Hospital has strived to continually upgrade technology to offer patients optimal care,” commented Bill Bumgarner, Spencer Hospital president. “This project is yet another commitment to further enhance cancer care services.  It will entail upgrading radiation treatment technology with a new linear accelerator for radiation treatment and transitioning to a new electronic health record system at the cancer center.”

The plan was approved by the Spencer Hospital Board of Trustees on Thursday.  Estimated cost of the project is $4 million and is anticipated to be completed in early August 2020.

“I’m looking forward to advancing state-of-the-art radiotherapy to patients at Abben Cancer Center using the new accelerator and software,” remarked Brenda Tiefenthaler, vice president of patient care and informatics. “Our current technology enables us to care for most types and stages of cancers. Soon we will be able to provide enhanced radiotherapy techniques that will permit patients to be treated closer to home.”

External beam radiation is administered by a linear accelerator. The accelerator currently in use was installed 10 years ago.  Since that time, regular upgrades have been made.  The new accelerator, the Elekta Versa HD, includes digital-based technology and numerous other enhanced features, including improved patient positioning and greater precision in targeting cancerous cells. This accelerator will be the most advanced in northern Iowa and will allow Abben to provide stereotactic radiotherapy.

“In addition to the equipment, the software upgrades are exciting for the enhanced capabilities they will add,” commented radiation oncologist Dr. Michael Marks. “This is the most accurate dose calculation software available. The three-dimensional capabilities allow for real-time interaction during and after treatment to fine-tune plans as needed.”

Dr. Marks explained, “With this technology, not only is the image of the tumor captured at every angle as treatment is delivered, so is any movement within the body, including surrounding organs. This allows for a very high dose of radiation to be delivered to the target volume while protecting healthy tissue.”

The new linear accelerator will enable Dr. Marks and Abben Cancer Center professionals to offer patients both stereotactic radiosurgery and stereotactic body radiation therapy.  Both of these treatment options are used for highly precise radiation treatments which can be equivalent to surgery.

For greater integration with the new equipment’s treatment planning software, Abben Cancer Center will transition to a new electronic medical record. The new medical record system is currently used by Avera Oncology, and will help ensure seamless care coordination between Abben and Avera when necessary.

Tiefenthaler explained the project will include some construction at the cancer center. Due to foresight years ago, work will entail minor renovation rather than new construction.

“When the first linear acceleration was replaced in 2009, we made the decision to build a brand new, second vault,” Tiefenthaler said. “This allowed us to continue treating patients throughout construction and allow patients to complete their radiation therapy on the system in which their treatment plan was created, as will be the case in the current transition. So, we currently have two large concrete, lead-lined vaults appropriate for performing radiation therapy.”

She explained that the original vault, which is currently used as a resource room and overflow medical oncology treatment area, will be renovated to house the new accelerator. Once the new technology is in place and patients being treated on the current accelerator complete their therapy, the second vault will be transformed into a resource area.

Renovation in preparation for the new equipment is expected to begin this calendar year.