A TrueBeam Tactic

Engineer Fascinated by SBRT Treatment

When Ford Pray, 89, learned he would have to undergo stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) to treat a lung tumor, the retired engineer’s curiosity was piqued. What was this new treatment and how did it work?

“Being an engineer by trade I’m curious about everything,” he said. “This experience was an education in itself and I stayed well aware of every step along the way.”

Ford had been hospitalized in October for chest pain. A diagnostic scan revealed that his pain was due to a blood clot in his lung and one in his leg. The scan also found suspicious growths on both his left lung and thyroid gland.

Radiation Oncologist Florian Ploch, M.D., and retired engineer Ford Pray discuss the workings of the linear accelerator at NorthBay Cancer Center in Vacaville.

His blood clots were dispatched with a prescription for blood thinner. What followed were diagnostic tests and biopsies to determine whether he had cancer. The tumor on his thyroid was found to be benign, the growth in his lung, however, was cancerous.

Because of his age, Ford’s medical oncologist James Long, M.D., at NorthBay Cancer Center in Vacaville, recommended SBRT in place of surgery. Ford readily agreed, eager for the new experience and an up-close look at the equipment. He was referred to Florian Ploch, M.D., a radiation oncologist at the cancer center.

SBRT is a form of radiation therapy that focuses high-power energy on a small area of the body. It uses a specially designed coordinate-system to deliver a powerful dose of radiation right into the tumor, improving the cure rate.

SBRT uses a specially designed coordinate-system to deliver a powerful dose of radiation right into the tumor, improving the cure rate.

This procedure became available when a new TrueBeam Linear Accelerator was installed in the VacaValley Wellness Center last year.

“I was the first patient!” Ford said.

He was happy to participate in a dry-run of the treatment—a day with the cancer doctors and staff working with the linear accelerator’s representative to ensure everything was perfect for their first case.

“I was all eyes and ears around this equipment. They had to keep batting me down because I wanted to learn all that I could. I was asking ‘How do you do that?’ and ‘What is this?’”

Ford’s actual treatment took place during four visits in January. His tumor has shrunk and he now has regular CT scans to follow his progress. “Dr. Ploch and his staff were extremely thorough, every step of the way,” Ford said. “All of the people who cared for me were absolutely fabulous.”

Ford and his wife, Margrethe, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year. He said they would often drive to the VacaValley Hospital campus to watch the Wellness Center under construction. When the building’s open house was held last August, they were among the guests examining the bright new building and the state-of-the-art equipment inside.

“I was glad the building was there when I needed it,” Ford said of the care he began at NorthBay Cancer Center just months later.

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