COEUR d'ALENE - The Kootenai Cancer Center location in Coeur d'Alene on Tuesday showed off its new $2.3 million linear accelerator for cancer treatment and imaging.
The Trilogy model linear accelerator was developed by Palo Alto, Calif.-based manufacturer Varian Medical Systems. The machine is able to completely rotate around patients and deliver radiation treatment from many different angles resulting in fewer side effects.
Joe Holmes, a medical physicist for the cancer center, said, "What makes it a Trilogy is there are three photon energies, where in the past we just had two energies."
Additionally, he said, "Now we have an on-board imager that allows us to look at the patients in 3-D."
The machine has shorter treatment times, improved precision to spare healthy tissues, and it monitors and adjusts for tumor motion in the lungs and other soft tissues.
Bob Matthews, chief medical physicist at the cancer center, said the 20,000-pound machine has a system that tells operators when the tumor is in a certain position, which then automatically triggers the beam.
"It goes around in different angles and turns the beam on and off depending on the location of the tumor," Matthews said.
It is the Kootenai Cancer Center's second Varian linear accelerator, as one has already been in operation at its Post Falls location. The Coeur d'Alene machine began operating in December.
"The life expectancy of this machine is about eight years," said Matthews.
The machine it replaced had been in operation since 1997, he said.
Jeanne Atha, executive director of the Kootenai Cancer Center, took the Kootenai Health Foundation board members on a tour of the Coeur d'Alene center on Tuesday to spotlight the new linear accelerator. The foundation donated $750,000 for the machine's purchase.
The Coeur d'Alene cancer center location averages 20 patients a day, as does Post Falls, with the potential to see up to 30 a day at both locations.
The cancer center locations treat patients primarily from Idaho's five northern counties.
"Market projections for cancer in this area are only like 1 percent growth per year," Atha said.
The primary cancers being treated at the center locations are breast and prostate, along with those in the head and neck.
She said the cancer center is looking at how it can better serve counties to the south as well.
She said Lewiston has radiation therapy, but she didn't know what type of machine providers there are using.
Depending on the length and intensity of the cancer treatment, a course of radiation therapy ranges from $10,000 to $80,000, said Becky Orchard, a spokeswoman for Kootenai Health. The average is $30,000 to $40,000, she said.