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  • CyberKnife: A Patient's Perspective

  • The Power to Eliminate Cancer. . .Before Lunch

    Ingrid Coddington enjoyed a life of travel and adventure that would be the envy of many, until health problems interfered with her plans - not once, but twice. First, she received a diagnosis of breast cancer. Months of treatment followed the diagnosis and finally, her life returned to normal. Then, during a medical examination, a tumor on her spine was discovered. Coddington was told that the tumor was epithelioid hemangioendothelioma, a rare cancer diagnosed usually in fewer than 300 people each year in the United States. 

    Rhode Island Hospital has the state's only CyberKnife Radiosurgery System. Patients like Ingrid Coddington enjoy a fast, precise course of treatment and a speedy recovery

    Having already endured cancer treatment, Coddington found this second cancer diagnosis difficult to bear. Not only did she once again have to face a frightening diagnosis, she also had to steel herself for another round of treatments. She says, "When you're diagnosed with something like that, it's a little difficult to know what the process will be." 

    The diagnosis brought her to the Radiosurgery Center of Rhode Island (RCRI), where she was treated with the CyberKnife radiosurgery system. CyberKnife is used to treat hard to reach tumors or those located in delicate sites within the body. Coddington was relieved to learn that the treatment with CyberKnife would be much easier than the treatment she had for breast cancer, which had lasted 13 weeks, every day, Monday through Friday.

    She says that CyberKnife, on the other hand, was a very short, easy treatment and she was able to go on with her life as normal. Each treatment took less than an hour, with no side effects - no burning or irritation of the skin, no hair loss. Coddington says, "I found that it was great because you could just go in your regular clothing. . .you just lie on the table and you could listen to music and the robot arm just goes around and attacks the tumor from any angle it can. You don't move. You just lie there. Even though you might think you must be doing something else, you don't have to do a thing.

    "If you've been diagnosed with cancer and it's in a very unusual spot and they recommend CyberKnife to you, I suggest that you go ahead with it because it is a very safe way of taking radiation, it does not affect your sensitive tissues, and it's fast."

    About her experience at RCRI, she says, "I was treated by Dr. Hepel. He was caring, and any request I had, he would go out of his way to give me answers. And also, when I requested a copy of an x-ray that had been taken to see where the tumor was and how it was affecting my spinal cord. . .I was impressed that he was able to come up with that copy for me immediately, and then later on he was more than willing to give me a copy to show me how the treatments had affected my tumor and what the results were. I was very, very pleased."

    Jaroslaw Hepel, MD, explains why CyberKnife was so effective in treating Coddington: "Ingrid had a rare malignant tumor of the spine. Malignant tumors in this area are a challenge to treat. . .because of the close proximity of the spinal cord and nerves to where the tumor is located.

    "This is where CyberKnife really excels. It has precision of about half a millimeter for treatment of spine and brain tumors, which is really an amazing precision that we are able to achieve. We achieve this by imaging continually through treatment, making any minor corrections as we go along during treatment delivery.

    "Because of our ability to precisely pinpoint the radiation, we can sculpt the radiation dose around the spinal cord and deliver curative doses of radiation to the malignant tumor. The results of treating spinal tumors with CyberKnife are quite good. Typically, local control is achieved in 90 to 95 percent of cases." Hepel is pleased to report that today, "Ingrid is doing well in a clinical sense, as well as radiographically, as we follow her with MRIs."

    Coddington also credits RCRI's staff for making her experience as pleasant as possible. "I found the staff at RCRI were just fabulous. . .very friendly, very personable. They made you feel very relaxed and special. Any questions I had they answered as best they could, and if they didn't know the answer, they would find out the answer for me. And I always like to know what is going on."

    Today, Coddington says, "I've completed my CyberKnife treatments. I had six treatments in all, and I just feel great. I feel as though it's really accomplished what it was set out to do. I look forward to my future and certainly enjoy traveling, and I know I'll be able to do that again."

    Coddington continues, "If CyberKnife is an option that's been extended to you, you should definitely do some research and feel comfortable about making the decision to undergo CyberKnife treatment. I found that it was so easy on the body, it was easy on the mind, there was not a lot of preparation, and you could go on and have your normal day. Yes, go out for lunch after the treatment. Enjoy yourself!"