Critical technologies in cancer treatment
According to the Deputy Minister of Health, nearly 100,000 Malaysians are diagnosed with cancer each year. Another way to look at it also is that 1 in every 4 Malaysians would be diagnosed with that debilitating disease by the age 75.
Recognising the significance of these statistics, Sunway Medical Centre or SunMed wants to take the lead in cancer treatment in the country, with the best expertise, equipment and technology available.
Now, its cancer centre is equipped with the most technologically advanced cancer treating technologies – the TrueBeam STx machine, intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT), the Da Vinci System, and most recently, the Gamme Knife.
This is an endeavour that SunMed undertook since July last year, not only by procuring the latest and thus far, proven technologies in the field of cancer treatment and palliative care, but also by sending SunMed personnel for training so as to be able to operate these state-of-the-art, potentially life-saving technologies whilst delivering suitable care.
For example, to use the Da Vinci surgical system, surgeons, a team of nurses, assisting nurses and also anaesthetists must undergo training. This is a requirement by the Malaysian health ministry.
Technology and robotics in cancer treatment
Resident medical physicist, Dr. Heng Siew Peng said, “We are trying to expand cancer treatment services in Malaysia, because the disease is becoming common. We want to be the one-stop centre for cancer treatment and SunMed can offer the latest and most advanced technologies.”
She explained, for example, that SunMed is the first private hospital to install the RM16 million TrueBeam STx, the latest model of a radiotherapy system that is able to treat all types of cancer, except leukaemia and lymphoma which require chemotherapy.
She also shared that CT scans of SunMed patients three months after radiosurgery treatment with the TrueBeam, reveals that they are doing well.
Robotics surgery is another form of removing cancer and to date, there are quite a number of robotics surgeons in Malaysia.
The surgery tool of choice, the Da Vinci surgical platform, is intended for anatomies at confined areas for example the pelvic region.
Dr. Badrulhisham Bhadzor, SunMed’s resident consultant urologist explained that the Da Vinci (DV) robotic surgery platform is an improvement over open surgery and keyhole surgery (laparoscopy). “The instruments have better dexterity, views by the telescopic device are high-definition, and improvement of surgical instruments mean they can replicate movements of the wrist in confined areas like the pelvic region, which couldn’t be done before.”
This explains why the DV is not a tool that is used for all kinds of surgeries, but specific types, for example in urology and gynaecology. “The DV platform is established in the fields of urology and gynaecology,” he said explaining that he himself uses the tool to remove prostate cancer.
A robotics surgical system like the Da Vinci is popular because it is not only minimally-invasive, but it offers precision and accuracy that is required during surgeries involving many critical anatomy structures like the rectum, as well as other essential nerves.
Surgery isn’t the only method that is advancing in the area of treating cancer.
To address patients’ concerns about radiation, MRI radiotherapy has emerged as an alternative. Because it is still relatively new, cost is prohibiting its introduction into Malaysia for now.
Other advances in pharmacotherapy and immunotherapy could also means better diagnostics. Being able to diagnose and detect cancer earlier, as well as recognise which patients can be treated, would mean treatments can be more accurately given according to the severity of the cancer in a patient.
The appropriate treatment modality for each cancer patient would lead to better outcomes with far less complications.
SunMed’s most recent cancer treatment technology acquisition is the Gamma Knife, another form of radiation therapy, that Heng described as the gold standard in treating benign brain diseases and brain tumours.