Advanced radiotherapy with positive results

The radiotherapy at the Cancer Centre in Umeå is of world class quality, and is one of the profile areas at the University Hospital of Umeå. By using a refined technique to pinpoint the exact location of a tumour, the radiation can be precisely calibrated and directed, leading to better results from the treatment while reducing the risk of side effects.

På svenska/In Swedish

– The future looks exciting, and our PET-MR camera is an important part of this progress. We are able to diagnose while simultaneously monitoring the effects of the treatment, and can therefore adjust and optimize the radiation individually. Furthermore, we are the first in the world to use PET-MR for research purposes, says Björn Zachrisson, professor and chief physician at the Cancer Centre, University Hospital of Umeå.

The sector has evolved immensely over the last couple of years, and the profile area radiotherapy is now one of the leading actors in Sweden, with results that measures up in international comparisons.

Umeå has, for example, one of few centres in Sweden where brain metastases and vascular deformities are treated with high precision.

– We use a stereotactic technique which allows us to localize the tumour in a three-dimensional system of coordinates wherein the patient is fixed. We have developed this technique in collaboration with the neurosurgery clinic at the University Hospital of Umeå, and we can show positive results, says Björn Zachrisson.

Different techniques for administering radiation

The radiotherapy at the Cancer Centre receives close to 2,000 patients annually from the northern medical region, and use several different techniques for administering radiation to treat a variety of cancer types.

Patients with lung cancer are treated with dosage-escalated radiation therapy, which means that the patients receive the highest dosage possible, considering sensitive tissue surrounding the tumour.

Gold markers as support

Prostate cancer is treated with so-called marker technology to achieve high precision and reduce the risk of adverse reactions from the intestines and bladder. The same technology is used in treating cervical cancer.

– This means that we use ultrasound to place gold markers in the prostate or cervix. Before every treatment we take x-rays of the patient and with the help of the markers, we are able to treat the area where the tumour is located without exposing surrounding tissues to more radiation than necessary, explains Björn Zachrisson.

High dosage for a short time

A study conducted by the university hospitals in Umeå and Lund, which was recently published in The Lancet, shows that radiotherapy using high dosage during a short period is as effective in treating prostate cancer as conventional radiotherapy over a longer period of time. With hypofractionation the tumour is treated on fewer occasions but with a higher dosage than in traditional treatment.

– The radiation machine rotates around the patient and the radiation hits the tumour from several different directions. Thereby, the radiation is concentrated to the area we want to treat, while the healthy tissue is spared to a great extent, says Björn Zachrisson.

Long distances and short lead times

Since the patients treated at the Cancer Centre often live far from the hospital, the staff are always working on minimizing the so-called lead times.

The treatment plan is formulated in dialogue with colleagues in the northern medical region, often remotely via audio and video on multi-disciplinary rounds. The rounds are especially important for the northern region with its population structure and long distances.

– It is the responsible physician who assesses the patient medically and who determines when treatment starts. The time from examination and planning to treatment initiation is very short, sometimes only a day and usually less than a week, says Björn Zackrisson.


Study visit:

On October 3 and 4 it is possible to make a study visit at the Cancer Centre in Umeå. Contact: Marie Sjögren, Head of Department, +46 73-324 15 49



Björn Zackrisson, Professor and Chief Physician, Cancer Centre, +46 72-560 93 36


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