Oncologist Works

Every year, new tools are introduced to help people fight cancer. One of the most sophisticated tools to be recently introduced is NovalisR, a machine that delivers radiation with pinpoint precision. Radiation is a form of energy that attacks cells that are quickly or actively dividing.

"Radiation has long been a mainstay of cancer treatment," says Robert Haselow, MD, a radiation oncologist at Park Nicollet Frauenshuh Cancer Center. Although cancer cells are radiation's intended target, this energy can inadvertently attack any cells that are actively dividing. When healthy cells are attacked, people experience side effects, including nausea and fatigue.

A technological masterpiece

"Novalis takes radiation therapy to a whole new level by delivering beams of radiation that match the exact contour of a tumor or lesion," Dr. Haselow explains. Because of this accuracy, Novalis minimizes damage to healthy cells. As a result, it has become the preferred treatment for many hard-to-reach tumors and lesions. This includes prostate cancer, early-stage lung cancer and cancers near the spinal cord and brainstem. It can even treat cancer in areas previously considered inoperable.

Novalis is also referred to as "shaped-beam robotic surgery." This is not traditional surgery, but rather a noninvasive alternative. Novalis can deliver one strong dose of radiation, known as stereotactic radiosurgery. Or it can deliver several smaller doses, known as stereotactic radiotherapy. Sessions take only 20 to 60 minutes.

Sophisticated software

Before treatment, a radiation oncologist works with physicists and radiation technicians to map the exact shape and location of the tumor, using special markers and imaging technology. Novalis software calculates ideal tumor access points and defines an optimal treatment plan.

During treatment, Novalis moves around the patient's body, allowing radiation to quickly penetrate the entire tumor or lesion from multiple angles. Patients receive treatment lying down. They may opt to have music therapy during treatment.

Novalis treatments are performed on an outpatient basis. Because patients do not experience pain or side effects, they are free to carry on with their normal routines once sessions are done.