How doctors treated my brain tumour on the UK’s newest type of radiotherapy machine

Posted August 15, 2014

WHEN Sarah Belsom was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year, she was determined to get the best treatment possible to bring the cancer under control.

Ten years previously, her father had been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour and doctors were only able to give him palliative radiotherapy. Within eight weeks of diagnosis, her father had died.

Thankfully, over the last decade, cancer treatments have come a long way.

After being diagnosed with a tumour called an Anaplastic Astrocytoma last November, Sarah, 41, from St Albans, underwent surgery at The Wellington Hospital to remove the cancer from the bottom right side of her brain.

Doctors were able to remove 90 per cent of the tumour which was the size of a tangerine. To kill off the remaining cancer cells, Sarah was offered radiotherapy using the latest medical technology at Harley Street at University College Hospital, London’s leading private patient cancer unit.

The TrueBeam radiotherapy machine is able to deliver radiotherapy much more accurately than traditional techniques.  This means a higher dose of high-energy radiation is able to be safely targeted at the site of the tumour, destroying any stray cancer cells that have been left during surgery and those not visible on MRI scans.

Greater accuracy also means fewer healthy cells close to the site of the tumour are damaged by the treatment. TrueBeam can be used for all types of cancers.

Doctors told Sarah she needed 33 sessions.  The private treatment, on the UK’s first TrueBeam machine at University College Hospital, was carried out Monday to Friday and each session took about 15 minutes.

Sarah, who is married with two children aged two and five and runs her own business, said: “When I was diagnosed with the tumour, I told doctors to throw everything at it. So I was delighted to be told I was having the best technology available. The staff who carried out the treatment were phenomenal.”

Sarah is now writing a book about her experience, the proceeds of which she is donating to The Brain Tumour Charity.

Sarah’s consultant, clinical oncologist, Dr Naomi Fersht, said, “Using TrueBeam ensures we can deliver the high dose required to treat and control brain tumours, whilst minimising the dose to the surrounding normal brain structures.”

Naomi Thewlis, Sarah’s Lead Radiographer, added: “TrueBeam is the newest radiotherapy technology and HCA was the first in the UK to install and use it.

It can be used for pretty much all cancers but it is particularly good for brain work because there are a lot of sensitive structures around the brain.”