KARACHI: A second CyberKnife robot is being installed at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Hospital (JPMC) to treat tumours with high-dosage precision radiation. The installation will cost roughly Rs570 million (USD4,100,000) and is expected to be completed in three months. The hospital will be able to perform radio surgery on 24 patients daily after the second robot is installed.
The CyberKnife department at JPMC treats patients free of cost. Since 2012, it has successfully treated around 131 patients, including those coming in from other cities and countries. The first CyberKnife robot has been functioning effectively at JPMC since 2012, but according to JPMC Radiology Department Head Dr Tariq Mehmood, it was not enough to meet the needs of the increasing number of cancer patients coming to the hospital.
The first robot of the CyberKnife Stereotactic System – a robotic system invented by a Standford University neurosurgeon that treats tumours with high-dosage precision radiation and causes minimal damage to healthy cells, was purchased for the hospital by Patients Aid Foundation in 2012, with help from its generous donors. The machine was extremely expensive and the treatment plus patient care cost around $90,000 dollars per person all over the world, Dr Mehmood had reported then. At the time, JPMC was the only hospital in the world to offer treatment through the CyberKnife system free of cost.
Now with the second installation, more patients can be facilitated at the hospital on a daily basis. The second robot, imported with support and assistance from the private sector, has maintenance costs of nearly Rs100m to Rs110m which are paid for by the government, according to Dr Mehmood. The robot can treat cancers of the brain, neck, spine, lungs and prostate. Its frameless equipment can shoot up to 1,200 beams of radiation at small tumours in areas that are difficult to reach. Since 2012, 52% of the department’s patients have been men and 48% women. Men commonly suffer from prostate cancer while women are more susceptible to breast cancer.
The Radio Therapy Commission is also being upgraded, he confirmed, adding that 120 patients daily will be able to receive radio therapy after the upgrade, as compared to only 60 patients previously.
According to Dr Mehmood, one radiation therapy session can last from half an hour to two and a half hours depending on the nature of the tumour. If the cancer is in its initial stages, a few sessions might be enough but if it has advanced, then more sessions over a longer period of time may be needed, he said. The treatment of cancer in its final stages is extremely difficult, added Dr Mehmood, advising citizens to get screened for early diagnosis, and women specially to get regular mammograms to check for breast cancer. He informed that around 30 patients visit the out-patient department daily and usually only two are diagnosed with cancer in its initial stages. Most patients are diagnosed either in the second stage or much later, he said.
Declaring mainpuri and gutka as one of the major causes of mouth cancer, he informed that Karachi has a comparatively higher rate of mouth cancer, nearly 30% whereas in other countries the rate is only five percent.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2019.