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Pinpoint Accuracy, Targeted Treatment: Radiosurgery Delivers Hope for Cancer Survival

Roland FasoloAn avid golfer, Roland Fasolo understands the mental discipline it takes to play the game. In 2011, he had to apply a similar determination and focus to a much more serious undertaking: fighting cancer.

In March of that year, after several weeks of experiencing shortness of breath and hoarseness, the fit and trim 52-year-old Burlington resident went to the Lahey Clinic. There, a CT scan showed a mass in his lung, and a biopsy revealed that it was small-cell lung cancer. He underwent four rounds of chemotherapy, 35 sessions of radiation therapy to his lung, and 12 sessions of prophylactic radiation to his brain (a standard preventive treatment that helps improve survival by reducing the chance of the cancer spreading to the brain).

Unfortunately, the brain radiation didn't work.

"I had a follow-up MRI after my treatment in early May, and it showed a small lesion in my brain," Roland says. But he still had options. "The radiation oncologist said I was an excellent candidate for stereotactic radiosurgery," he notes.

Stereotactic radiosurgery – also called stereotactic radiotherapy – is a highly precise form of radiation therapy ideally suited for treating tumors in the brain. Despite its name, stereotactic radiosurgery is a non-surgical procedure that delivers precisely targeted radiation at much higher doses than traditional radiation therapy while sparing the surrounding healthy tissue.

Since Lahey Clinic was in the process of upgrading their radiosurgery system, Roland was referred to Lowell General for treatment.

"I met with the radiation oncologist who leads the radiosurgery program at Lowell General and he showed me the TrueBeam™ machine at my first visit," Roland recalls. "It was pretty impressive."

Roland underwent another MRI to aid in treatment planning, and met with a neurosurgeon. Together, the doctors fine-tuned the number of angles by which the TrueBeam system would target his brain lesion.

The next day, Roland began a series of five treatments (three sessions one week, two sessions the following week). Lowell General's chief of radiation oncology saw him at every visit. "I was amazed at how much more involved each radiation therapy session was, with scans and images preceding each treatment," Roland says. "And even though I was getting a higher dose of radiation than before, it was more exact, so I didn't have the side effects that I did before," he adds, referring chiefly to fatigue. In fact, he and a friend won the member-member golf tournament at his Nashua, NH club in May – the same month he completed treatment.

In July, Roland had another MRI scan to evaluate the results of the TrueBeam radiotherapy.

"The doctors were extremely pleased," he relates. "He saw a reduction of almost 90% in the brain lesion. They said that what's left is healing or scar tissue, and that my cancer is unlikely to recur there. It was great news."

While Roland has found the TrueBeam technology amazing, he has been equally impressed by the level of attentive care he has received at Lowell General.

"I think the world of the staff ," he says. "Their concern and kind-heartedness have been remarkable; they've been one of the best parts of this whole experience," he says, adding with a smile, "And I didn't have to pay for parking there!"

"You have to be positive, take each day one at a time and let go of what doesn't matter," he says. "You can't let cancer stop you."

Spoken like a true champion.

Learn More about Varian TrueBeam™ Radiotherapy.

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