Using Radiation Therapy to Treat Cancer in the Heart of Lake Oconee

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Atlanta Oncology Associates, Lake Oconee Cancer Care

Your physician tells you that you have early-stage lung cancer. While it’s frightening to learn that you have cancer, outcomes are better when you catch and treat it in its early stages.

For some people, surgery may not be the best option, however. There are several reasons why you and your doctor may decide that a non-surgical option is best for you. You may have multiple medical problems or a specific disease or illness that makes you unable to withstand surgery.

Fortunately, there is an alternative—radiation therapy.

First-Rate Cancer Treatment Close to Home

Atlanta Oncology Associates specializes in the treatment of cancer to provide patients with the individualized attention they need. Its staff is experienced in the most advanced approaches to treatment. In addition, it offers technologically superior facilities right here in Lake Oconee to provide the best care possible. These facilities are accredited by the American College of Radiology, the principal supervisory body for radiation oncology.

“Our practice is local and our staff is tremendous from the nurses to the therapists and support staff,” says radiation oncologist Dr. Mark Quinn. “We offer patients a nice and clean outpatient facility with plenty of easy and accessible parking. In addition, we communicate often with the other doctors in the area through tumor boards and meetings so we are all on the same page. We also keep up to date with the latest medical literature.”

Treating Cancer with State-of-the-Art Equipment

To ensure the best possible outcome, the center uses a multidisciplinary approach which requires collaboration and coordination among the specialists on a patient’s treatment team. In fact, they can do same-day work in consults.  

“Our comprehensive cancer center offers patients with state-of-the-art equipment to treat their cancer,” says Dr. Quinn. “We abide by national protocols so the patient can really get treated close to home. Since radiation involves five to six weeks of daily treatment, our center can save patients a lot of time and headaches from not having to travel too far.”

The center uses Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), an advanced high-precision radiotherapy that delivers pinpoint radiation doses to a malignant tumor or specific areas within the tumor.

The center also uses stereotactic body radiation therapy or SBRT which uses the latest radiation technology to precisely target cancer in any part of the body. It zaps a high dose of radiation precisely focused to a small targeted area, such as lung cancer that’s only in the lung and which hasn’t spread yet. Since this treatment is located solely on the tumor, damage to the surrounding normal tissue is limited.

“We also have a new machine to treat skin cancer called the Esteya,” says Dr. Quinn.

With Esteya, Dr. Quinn can treat small skin cancer lesions in six quick treatments using skin deep x-rays. It is effective, safe, and patients are happy not to worry about surgery scars.

“The patient can avoid surgery or wound healing with this machine,” he says.

Through brachytherapy, a type of radiation therapy, cancer cells are destroyed by making it hard for them to multiply. In brachytherapy, a radiation source is placed directly into or next to a tumor.

“We use a high dose rate that goes in and treats the tumor and goes back out,” says Dr. Quinn. “For example, if you have prostate cancer, we put catheters in the prostate and the high dose radioactive source goes into each catheter one at a time and then we pull them out and the patient goes home. So there’s no radioactivity left in the patient. It’s just a temporary high dose radiation given directly to the prostate.”

Support for Cancer Patients

Of course, no matter the treatment, patients still have some concern, notes Dr. Quinn. Typically, they worry about side effects, what’s going to happen when they are given radiation, what it involves, how long does it take, and whether they can still function normally on a day-to-day basis, as well as what the outcomes will be.

It’s important to give patients as much knowledge as possible to put them at ease, he explains.

“I review with each patient exactly what is involved in the radiation treatment,” says Dr. Quinn. “We show some videos, walk them through what they will experience, give them some literature about radiation and their cancer, and also discuss the anticipated side effects which is completely normal with radiation. We go everything carefully so they are not surprised by anything. We want to paint a picture of what they will experience with a whole course of treatment.”

In addition, Atlanta Oncology Associates also offers patients a Cancer Support Group which it hosts monthly in the auditorium at its cancer center. One of its patients, a cancer survivor, coordinates the monthly meetings. As patients go through cancer treatments, they have the support of others who also went through treatments.

Dr. Quinn decided to focus on radiation oncology as his career path to better help cancer patients. “I also had an engineering background and there’s a lot of physics involved in radiation oncology—that blended in well with my engineering background. So I thought it was a good fit.”

Dr. Quinn joined the staff of the Lake Oconee center about 18 months ago.

“Atlanta Oncology Associates has had a strong presence in Atlanta for about 50 years and they were one of the original radiation groups in the area,” he says. “I grew up in Atlanta and I wanted to remain in the region so I wanted to work with them.”

While dealing with cancer patients can be sometimes difficult, the most rewarding part of being a radiation oncologist is the success stories, says Dr. Quinn.

“I examined a young patient the other day who came to see me six months ago and thought she was near death,” he recalls. “But six months later, following her treatments, she had regained some of the weight she had lost and was back to feeling like her normal self again. That’s the most rewarding part of what we do—if you can help cure a patient of their cancer and get them back to a normal routine.”

For more information, visit www.oconeecancer.com.

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