Lung Cancer Treatment
With a smile on her face, Evelyn Botts
of Knoxville, Tennessee, can’t speak highly enough of Dr. Robert Bertoli
, a radiation oncologist, and the rest of the staff at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. With 3 children, 4 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren, this now 81-year-old was enjoying life with her family and playing Bingo with her friends every week. She feared nothing more than pneumonia, when unexpected test results threw Evelyn’s life into the hands of oncology experts at the medical center.
In 2009, Evelyn was worried that she had pneumonia after a terrible cough just wouldn’t go away. Her family physician ordered a chest X-ray that revealed not only pneumonia, but a tumor in her lung. She was then sent to James Shamiyeh, MD
, Pulmonologist at UT Medical Center who referred her for a biopsy. “I didn’t even feel bad, except for the cough,” Evelyn says. “I had a follow up appointment the next week and, when I walked into the room, I knew from the looks of him what he was going to say. ‘It’s malignant,’ he said.” After 50 years of smoking, Evelyn had lung cancer.
More than 220,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in 2010, according to the American Cancer Society. It is the second most common cancer in both men and women in the United States. Symptoms may include a cough that doesn’t go away, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, loss of appetite and fatigue among other associated symptoms. However, some people do not display any symptoms until it’s too late.
Despite initial fears, Evelyn instantly felt in good hands. She knew her case was being reviewed by a multidisciplinary team of experts. She had multiple doctors review her case, and they all agreed that she was a candidate for CyberKnife stereotactic radiosurgery
. Among this team was Robert Bertoli, MD, Radiation Oncologist who would orchestrate the CyberKnife treatment.
“Mrs. Botts was understandably upset regarding her diagnosis of lung cancer,” explained Dr. Bertoli. “Most patients do not realize that there is a well tolerated high dose directed radiation treatment for early stage inoperable lung cancers with the CyberKnife therapy. Only 3 to 5 treatments are necessary and the chance of controlling the lung cancer is higher than with conventional techniques.”
CyberKnife stereotactic radiosurgery is used to treat tumors and other conditions throughout the entire body. The CyberKnife synchrony respiratory tracking system allows precise delivery of radiation even to those organs such as lungs that move with breathing. CyberKnife can even treat tumors that are considered inoperable or untreatable with surgery or other options.
“While we started in 2005 treating primarily brain and spine tumors with the CyberKnife, we have since then been treating an increasing number of body tumors with the system with very good results,” states Dr. Bertoli. “Our lung cancer patients have tolerated the CyberKnife treatments universally well, and most have had their lung cancer controlled with the therapy.”
Evelyn did not want to have surgery. “If there was an alternative to surgery, I wanted to know about it,” she says. “CyberKnife was a great treatment for me. There was no pain, just laying on the table while the treatment happened.”
In July 2009, Evelyn underwent a 5-day treatment, at the time, a fairly typical CyberKnife treatment for lung cancer. The CyberKnife system at UT Medical Center underwent an upgrade in December 2009 that may allow even shorter treatments. “CyberKnife is a great alternative to surgery for qualified lung cancer patients,” explains Terri McDonald, RN, CyberKnife Coordinator
. “You have none of the risks associated with surgery with a very low risk of side effects. We have seen excellent results.”
Evelyn’s follow ups resulted in great news: no more lung cancer. “I would recommend UT Medical Center and Dr. Bertoli to anyone,” Evelyn says. “Everybody is great here. They are nice and were so good to me and my family. I would recommend CyberKnife to anyone who is a candidate.”
Evelyn no longer smokes. She reports that she is now healthy, not taking any medications and enjoying her life again. “The pneumonia was a blessing,” Evelyn says. “You might not know you have lung cancer. It was the pneumonia that helped them find it, and the wonderful staff at UT Medical Center that got rid of it.”