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Updated: January 23, 2013 19:43 IST

Radiating hope

T. SARAVANAN
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Novel method to monitor cancer treatment. Photo: Special Arrangement
Novel method to monitor cancer treatment. Photo: Special Arrangement

Innovative device to monitor cancer patients’ respiration during radiation therapy

When Muthusamy (name changed on request), who works as a security guard in a private firm, was diagnosed with malignant tumour in the lungs, doctors suggested radiation therapy. He went for the treatment but suffered from side effects. Doctors identified the problem area. While the radiation was going on, the patient had moved away from the correct position, and normal cells were exposed to the radiation. Had the machine stopped when the patient moved away from his position, this mishap could have been prevented.

In an attempt to prevent such incidents, S. Senthilkumar, Radiation Safety Officer, Government Rajaji Hospital, has developed Cancer Patients’ Respiratory Monitoring Device. “This device is mainly used for the treatment of lung cancer patients,” he says.

The main aim of the treatment is to deliver sufficient radiation to the cancer tissue and avoid radiation to surrounding normal cells.

“Majority male patients get cancer in the lungs because of smoking,” he explains. “Lungs are movable organs. When the lung cancer patient is under treatment, during the respiration, cancerous part moves according to the breathing of the patient. But the affected part has to be treated continuously for two to five minutes. If you treat the cancer with full dose, there is every chance that the normal cells also will get exposed to radiation. Also, if you don’t give the required dose then cancer cells will not get the maximum curative radiation. Hence, there was a need to find a device that could monitor the patient and deliver the treatment accordingly.”

His innovative device continuously monitors the breathing pattern of the patient and controls the radiation machine according to the patient’s lung movement. Accurate delivery of radiation is thereby maintained and normal cells are protected.

Dr. Senthilkumar, who is also the Assistant Professor of Radiology Physics, Department of Radiotherapy, Madurai Medical College, has won two national awards and a gold medal for his work from the Association of Radiation Oncologists of India and Association of Medical Physicists of India. He has developed more than 34 indigenous devices to improve cancer treatment and has been honoured with several awards for his innovative work. In 2008, he developed a similar device to monitor the patient’s position, stop treatment automatically and alert the staff in the console room if the patient moved from his correct position.

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