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LIFESAVERS: Jonathan Poole, senior radiographer at Ipswich Hospital, works alongside Suzanne Isherwood, radiotherapy
service manager, getting the True Beam radiotherapy machine set up for volunteer Daniel Emmens.
£2million True Beam machine is a UK first for treating illness
01 March 2012

It's a pretty impressive machine – its looks decidedly futuristic and is undoubtedly cutting edge. Called True Beam and costing about £2million, Ipswich Hospital’s latest addition to the radiotherapy department is ensuring cancer care in our county remains some of the best on offer in the UK.

Jonathan Poole, 44, a senior radiographer in the clinical oncology department, is one of the team who has been operating the new True Beam machine since it was installed. He said: “The True Beam machine is the latest of three linear accelerators we have in the department. The new machine allows us to deliver increasingly specialised treatments. It is a machine that issues high energy X-rays to treat deep-seated tumours in the body as well as more superficial cancers.”

Jonathan said the machine will be used to treat a wide range of cancers including breast, head and neck, throat and larynx, prostate and bone cancers. Patients, who are alone when the machine is in operation, are monitored from a nearby control room. Jonathan said: “It can be quite daunting for patients to be in a room alone with a machine. An average treatment will take about 15-20 minutes though the X-rays themselves will be administered for probably less than a minute.”

True Beam technology allows significantly higher doses of X-rays to be administered in specific parts of the body reducing side-effects such as skin soreness, hair loss, nausea and swallowing problems as well as reducing the amount of damage to healthy tissue. Suzanne Isherwood, radiotherapy manager, is in charge of the 24 or so team of therapeutic radiographers at the hospital. She said: “This machine enables Ipswich to remain at the forefront of cancer treatment in the UK. This is the first machine of its kind in the NHS. True Beam allows us to treat much smaller target areas with much higher doses. We are confident it will save lives.

“It is great for Ipswich Hospital and great for the people of Suffolk. Cancer patients will know that here they will get the best treatment available anywhere in the UK. They will not have to go to London or anywhere else to get this type of technologically- advanced treatment.”
Still under development, European research into True Beam has already shown promising results.

Radiotherapy physicist Daniel Emmens and radiotherapy trainee physicist Louisa Alder are working on developing the potential of the machine for patients. Daniel, 31, said the machine has the ability to treat small lung tumours thanks to its ability to deliver large doses to small and
specific areas. He said: “Because X-ray doses have to be specific it is important we target radiotherapy accurately and True Beam includes three dimensional technology which enables us to provide patients with 3D images of where the treatment will be targeted before treatment begins.”

The machine is also expected to be used in relieving cancer symptoms and improving the quality of life as well as treating secondary localised
cancers. And because it might all sound a bit daunting the department has been offering open sessions, which include a short demonstration and chance to ask questions, to patients and their families. Suzanne said: “Lying on a flat surface with a machine moving around you can be a strange experience. Patients can bring some music with them that we play while the treatment takes place.”