You might have noticed construction taking place around Rapides Cancer Center.

In addition to facility renovations, Rapides Cancer Center has installed the first Varian TrueBeam linear accelerator in Central Louisiana. A linear accelerator is commonly used for external beam radiation treatments on cancer patients. It delivers high-energy X-rays or electrons to the region of the patient's tumor.

“The new TrueBeam linear accelerator offers enhanced and precise treatment options, and it allows us to treat a wider array of cancer cases,” said Bryce Beard, M.D., radiation oncologist at Rapides Cancer Center. “The best news of all is this allows our patients to receive world-class care at home.”

The new linear accelerator also allows Dr. Beard to perform stereotactic radiosurgery and stereotactic body radiotherapy. In stereotactic radiosurgery, focused beams of radiation are used to treat brain and spinal tumors, vascular lesions and other neurologic conditions throughout the body without damaging healthy tissue.

The TrueBeam system provides Dr. Beard and the Rapides Cancer Center staff the flexibility needed to treat cancer wherever it is located in the body with speed. For most patients, treatments may take just a few minutes a day. The precision and speed means patients are exposed to less radiation.

“TrueBeam has surface guidance that provides a 3D map of the region being treated,” said Dr. Beard. “This ensures precise localization, providing more effective treatment with fewer side effects.”

Dr. Beard also said due to advances in technology, some patients now may be able to complete treatment in a shorter period of time.

TrueBeam is not the only state-of-the-art technology being added to the Cancer Center, which has been accredited by the Commission on Cancer since 1972. In early 2022, it will be home to a 64-slice PET scanner that creates 64 high-resolution images per rotation. This allows doctors who specialize in oncology the ability to determine which tissues are involved with cancers and which ones are not.

“A PET/CT is a valuable tool for any doctor who treats cancer, and it is important in many cancers for staging, monitoring of treatment response, and for surveillance,” explained Dr. Beard. “It can also be used during radiotherapy planning to enhance our treating and planning.”

“The Rapides Cancer Center will be the area’s only 64 slice PET/CT and one of only a few radiation oncology practices in the country to offer a designated PET/CT in our cancer center,” said Jeff Langston, Director of Oncology at Rapides Regional Medical Center. “Unlike traditional CT simulations, PET/CT simulation enables our radiation oncologists to use information on both the tumor's location and activity to precisely pinpoint the radiation to only where it's needed. Studies have shown that PET has an impact on radiation therapy planning, so combining that with the precise treatment delivery of the TrueBeam Linear Accelerator means better overall patient outcomes.  This is another way we continue to provide health care on a higher level for our community.”