CANCER patients in Warrnambool now have access to targeted, more accurate radiotherapy treatment thanks to new 3D printing technology.
Warrnambool's Icon Cancer Centre is the first Icon centre in Australia to implement the innovative tech.
Before now, local radiation specialists had used hand-moulded wax to help treat cancers close to the skin's surface, such as melanomas.
The method was time-consuming, often taking a number of hours to mould and get right.
Now with its new 3D printing technology, made possible by a $6000 grant from the Peter's Project Foundation, it can get moulds printed at the click of a button to fit to the patient exactly.
Radiation therapist Rebecca Brooks said it transformed the way it treated south-west patients.
"The aim of radiotherapy is to deliver radiation to a tumour while minimising the dose to surrounding healthy skin tissue," she said.
"In some cases where the tumour is close to the surface of the skin you can't give a big enough dose because it would burn the skin, so to counter that we have been using wax moulds - also known as a bolus - on top of the skin to sort of trick it into thinking the skin is thicker.
"But the wax moulds took a lot of time and didn't always mould perfectly to the patient's skin, such as the nose, ear and scalp, and if there's air gaps it can increase the side effects like dryness and burns to the skin.
"Now with this 3D printing technology we can program the mould into the computer software and print it, replicating the mould area as accurately as we can.
"Not only is it time-saving, but it's the best outcome for the patient which is our ultimate goal."
Medical physicist Virginia Drumm said Warrnambool was the first of the Icon centres to have the technology.
"There's preconceived ideas that regional cancer centres are below metropolitan centres, but we've had a lot of firsts here in Warrnambool," she said.
"This technology will mostly be used on head and neck ares because they are more complicated structures.
"We're also looking into more flexible materials so we can, for example, create a mould for a chest wall for a patient who may have had a mastectomy."
Peter's Project Foundation director Vicki Jellie said it was an excellent example of where local donations were being spent.
"It's important we let the community know how we've distributed the annual funds," she said.
The Peter's Project Foundation's annual trust funds distribution for 2018 - 2019 also included:
- $4433 to Terang Mortlake Health Service for two pressure-relieving mattresses for its palliative care room
- $6500 to St John Of God Warrnambool for a new chemotherapy chair
- $45,000 the South West Regional Cancer Centre for its for Survivorship Program and the Peter's Project Community room
- A number of projects at South West Healthcare, including $9500 for an oncology pharmacy fridge, $10,000 sponsorship for the Great South Coast Community Cancer Expo, $2860 for clinical trials staff to attend cancer-related training, $6340 for a McGrath Nurse and Cancer Link nurse and $800 for bookshelves for the chemotherapy area
- $18,000 to Portland District Health for skin graft equipment
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