Endoscopic Ultrasound Cuts Down Radiation Visits, Gives New Hope to Cancer Patients

Endoscopic Ultrasound for Cancer Patients
Pancreatic cancer patient James Forster (far right) can now spend more time with his family, thanks to Thomas Daniels, MD, of Phoenix CyberKnife (far left), and Anu Mathew, MD, director of endoscopic ultrasound at John C. Lincoln North Mountain (center).

James Forster started his fight against pancreatic cancer without much hope.

"It all started about two years ago when I started feeling pain in my right side. I just ignored it hoping it would go away. Along with the increased pain, I slowly began inching my belt up, loop by loop. It was only when I looked in the mirror one day, two years later, that I realized something was wrong," said Forster, 69, a retired custodian from Sky Harbor Airport.

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"The doctors told me I had pancreatic cancer that couldn't be removed and said there wasn't much they could do. My family encouraged me to look into other options and that is when I heard about stereotactic radiation."

Normal radiation treatments for cancer patients are received over the course of six weeks. When someone is diagnosed with cancer and requires chemotherapy or radiation, reducing office visits and time spent at the doctor's office can alleviate strain on the patient's physical energy and allow for more meaningful time to spend with their family and friends.

John C. Lincoln North Mountain Hospital and Phoenix CyberKnife have teamed up to condense the number of radiation visits to improve patient outcomes through the combination of John C. Lincoln's endoscopic ultrasound procedures and CyberKnife's localized radiation treatments.

Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is a method of abdominal imaging to see organs near the stomach and esophagus including the pancreas, bile duct, liver, gallbladder and the walls of the gastrointestinal tract.

EUS can determine the extent of the spread of cancers and diagnose masses. It also assists in killing tumors through the placement of gold coils, called fiducials, inside the masses.

"Once fiducials are placed inside the tumor, CyberKnife can perform localized radiation to the exact location of the tumor instead of the traditional radiation throughout the body," said Anu Mathew, MD, director of the Endoscopic Ultrasound department at John C. Lincoln North Mountain Hospital.

Benefits of Endoscopic Ultrasound

Endoscopic ultrasound allows doctors to microscopically examine tissue in and around the digestive tract. It can:

  • Show the inner surface of the digestive tract through detailed images.
  • Determine metastasis of certain tumors less than one to two centimeters that cannot be seen through other imaging devices.
  • Detect abnormalities by penetrating the layers of the GI tract with a small needle rather than waiting for abnormal tissue to be examined with a microscope.
  • Investigate other organs of the body including lungs, kidneys, liver, spleen and rectum.

"This helps kill the tumor in a shorter amount of time and allows the CyberKnife to adjust for tumor movement."

"Treating tumors in the pancreas, lung or liver with radiation are difficult because those tumors move as you breathe," added Thomas Daniels, MD, of Phoenix CyberKnife.

"Implanting fiducials enables the radiation beam to track and correct for movement in real time and allows patients to breathe normally during their treatment sessions. This eliminates harm to the healthy surrounding tissues of the patient as well."

"Going through this process has allowed me to spend more time with my family," said Forster. "I would encourage others to go to the doctor if they are experiencing pain and not wait. Give yourself a chance as life is short and don't give up."

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