New Weapon to Fight Cancer

67 year old retired pilot, James Elrod from Prather has been grounded by cancer but he's hoping to soon be back on his feet.

He's fighting the disease in his leg and back with the help of a state-of-the-art treatment at Saint Agnes' Cancer Center in north Fresno.

"It's pretty straightforward all you have to do is hold still."

Dr. Li Lui checks on his patient's progress after James became one of the first people in the valley to undergo the shaped beam radiation surgery.

Like its name radiation beams can be shaped to the exact form of a tumor delivering a treatment so precise, it can eradicate a tumor in just one or a few treatments, instead of multiple sessions like traditional radiation therapy.

Unlike its name, it's not traditional surgery using scapals or stitches. Patients can go home the same day of treatment.

"Li Lui, MD: "This is the most cutting edge technology you can find anywhere in the world so they don't have to travel a far distance anymore and plus it's just one treatment and they can go home the same day with very little or no recovery time."

For James Elrod it's an innovation almost tailor made for the location of his cancer right next to his spine.

James Elrod: "My thoughts about it was whether or not it was going to hurt or not because they're going to do radiation and do it all in one motion, so to speak."

This is a three-d image of James Elrod's spine. The green area is the cancer and you can see just how close it is to the spinal cord, the blue area. With the shaped beam radiation surgery, his treatment would have been much more invasive, risking many complications.

The 3-point-3 million dollar shaped beam therapy lessens the damage to surrounding healthy tissue which was critical in James' case.

Across the street at the main hospital construction around gamma construction is underway to house the gamma knife. The four-and-a-half million dollar neurosurgery equipment uses no knife but also delivers targeted radiation too hard to reach tumors in the head and neck.

Now that both technologies are in the valley patients like James Elrod have new tools to help them become cancer survivors.

"I haven't given up yet the smoke's all clear and I'm still here."

With the new technologies, Saint Agnes medical center's neurosurgery program ranks with top institutions such as "Johns Hopkins Hospital" and "UCSF Medical Center."

Community Regional Medical Center is also expanding its neuroscience unit in downtown Fresno.

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