Martha Jefferson Hospital Treats 1st Patient with Calypso System - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Martha Jefferson Hospital Treats 1st Patient with Calypso System

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Martha Jefferson Hospital is delivering doses of radiation to prostate cancer patients using new technology that tracks and targets tumors.  The hospital treated its first patient with the Calypso System Tuesday. 

Only seven cancer centers in the commonwealth have the high-tech system.  Martha Jefferson is the only one in central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley.  Doctors at the hospital say it's more precise and leaves a healthier, happier patient.

Craig LaMountain is a patient patient.  He spends 30 minutes lying still on a platform, surrounded by rotating machines and laser beams.

"Just lay there and be comfortable," he said.  "You feel nothing.  If I wasn't worried about moving, I'd fall asleep."

Martha Jefferson Hospital has become a daily stop for LaMountain.  He said, "It's five days a week for 42 treatments."

The 65-year-old from Greene County was diagnosed with prostate cancer in August.  "It's cancer, what do you think?  People die of cancer, so you worry about it," LaMountain said.

But he waited until now to begin treatments with the hospital's new Calypso technology.  LaMountain said, "I wanted to wait until the Calypso System was put in place here."

A urologist inserted three radio beacons into LaMountain's prostate.  "They're like little GPS markers," he said. 

Those allow doctors to monitor the movement of his cancer in real-time during radiation treatments.

"It's very precise.  It's less than a millimeter in terms of movements," said radiation oncologist Dr. Sylvia Hendrix.  "When we have that information that something has changed, we can stop their treatment, reposition the patient, and it gives us added security that we are targeting the patient's cancer precisely."

Hendrix explains how previous treatments couldn't track natural internal changes.  She said, "We would make the assumption the patient didn't move or the target didn't move.  We know that isn't true."

Hendrix says studies show patients who undergo Calypso experience few side effects from radiation, and they're just temporary.

"Not only will patients tolerate treatment better, but they will also have fewer long-term side effects including bladder issues, lower digestive issues, as well as sexual function," she said.

Radiation hasn't slowed LaMountain.  He's confident - with Calypso's care - cancer will not be his killer.

"There's no side effects at all.  I leave here and go home to do a full day's work," he said.  "Now with the new technology, I'm all for it.  I'll be here 20 years from now."

Hendrix says Calypso is not for men who are obese or have too much metal in their bodies, such as after a hip replacement.  Calypso is currently only treating prostate cancer patients, but it could be used for women with left-side breast cancer in the future.

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