Planning for the Future After Advanced-Stage Cancer

High-tech cancer treatment gave Cindy Newberry more days to be a mother to her son, Jordan. A diagnosis of stage 4 throat cancer in 2005 raised doubts if Cindy would live to celebrate her son's fourth birthday this year. Now Cindy is cancer-free and planning her future. She appreciates the technology that helped her treat hypopharynx cancer, a disease more common in 60- to 70-year-old African American males than 44-year-old mothers.

Why Cindy got this disease, no one knows, but it may be related to past years as a light smoker or exposure to second-hand smoke as a child, all risk factors. Cindy knew she wanted the best chance of treating the disease, so she chose North Kansas City Hospital and IMRT or Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy. The Hospital's Radiation Therapy Department, located in Medical Plaza North, is one of a few select facilities to offer this option.

Technological advances, like IMRT, make it possible to deliver radiation with more accuracy, fewer side effects and higher radiation doses while avoiding healthy tissue. "It's satisfying to offer patients the best treatment available," says Kelly Rhodes-Stark, MD, a North Kansas City Hospital radiation oncologist affiliated with Therapeutic Radiologists, Inc. "I've seen quality of life improve with IMRT from decreased skin irritation, improved salivary (saliva) function and fewer gastrointestinal problems during and after treatment." Cindy, who also received chemotherapy, credits IMRT for quickly returning her sense of taste instead of the typical six months with traditional radiation.

Dr. Rhodes-Stark explains that a clinical team uses a dedicated CT scanner and two linear accelerators to plan and deliver an individualized therapy plan with IMRT. This enthusiastic team consists of two board certified radiation oncology physicians, certified oncology nurses, radiation therapists, dosimetrists (who calculate the amount of radiation) and a physicist.

This team uses IMRT to treat cancer of the prostate, head and neck, many breast cancers and some gastrointestinal, pelvic and central nervous system (brain) cancers.

Cindy Newberry appreciates the clinical skill of her health care team and the family support she received in helping her through this life-changing experience. "I have an increased appreciation for life and a renewed faith," she says.

To learn more about IMRT, one of the most advanced methods to treat cancer, call North Kansas City Hospital's Radiation Therapy Department at 816-691-5216.

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