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My Work in Radiotherapy at the BC Cancer Agency

December 20, 2012

I joined the BC Cancer agency in 2006 because of the Agency’s mandate and vision of "a cancer free society." We are working collectively to achieve this broad aim:

  • To reduce the incidence of cancer.
  • To reduce the mortality rate of people with cancer.
  • To improve the quality of life of people living with cancer.

I personally like to live closer to nature, and this also attracted me towards a career in beautiful British Columbia.

At the BC Cancer Agency, my work involves radiotherapy, which is a way of treating or managing cancer using high energy ionizing radiation. Along with surgery and chemotherapy, radiation therapy is one of the most important cancer treatments.

When radiotherapy treatment is being given by external x-ray beams, it's important that the patient and the area being treated are in exactly the same position each time so that we can maximize the dose to the tumour and minimize dose to healthy organs. Organ motion during radiotherapy, especially during treatment of breast and lung cancer, whether due to respiration or cardiac motion pose a challenge of either missing a tumour or hitting normal tissues during treatment.

The position of a tumour follows a rhythmic motion as the chest cavity expands and contracts during the breathing cycle. One way of handling this issue is to turn the radiation on when the tumour is in focus of the x-ray beam and turn the radiation off when the tumor moves out of position. This way, we are able to monitor breathing and cardiac motion and limit the radiation exposure to the portion of the breathing cycle when the tumour is in the path of the radiation beam. The technical name for this is “Gated Radiotherapy.”