When Bob Charron retired at 58 after a 35-year career in the RCMP, he had big plans for the next chapter in his life. He couldn’t wait to spend more time with his wife, kids and grandson.
Unfortunately, only a few short months after he retired, his plans were stopped in their tracks: Bob was diagnosed with Stage 2B prostate cancer.
His oncologist at BC Cancer – Kelowna quickly identified that he was a prime candidate for an innovative treatment called brachytherapy.
Through brachytherapy, Bob would have a tiny radioactive seed implanted in a single session and avoid up to five weeks of daily radiation treatments using beams.
The treatment worked very quickly and his tests showed a dramatic and nearly immediate response. Bob’s retirement plans soon got back on track – he and his wife even enjoyed a month-long trip to Belize.
“I’m living proof that innovations in cancer research and care can save lives,” Bob says. “I am so grateful for the incredible treatment I received at BC Cancer.”
Dr. Ross Halperin, executive medical director, BC Cancer – Kelowna, says there are many benefits to brachytherapy as opposed to other types of radiation treatment.
“What’s special about brachytherapy is that the radioactive sources are placed directly where the tumour is so the radiation doesn’t have to travel through the body to get to the tumour target,” says Dr. Halperin. “That allows us to deliver a lot more radiation treatment safely to the tumour while protecting the body from the harms of radiation treatment in the normal tissues.”
Another advantage is the rapidity of treatment, he explains: “Many of our standard radiation treatments from the outside in take six to eight weeks of daily treatment Monday through Friday to complete, whereas brachytherapy is typically completed for a number of cancers in one to four-day surgeries. More than 70 per cent of the patients our oncologists treat are from communities like Cranbrook, Invermere, Nelson, Vernon and Kamloops, and they benefit from faster treatments and less time away from their homes and families.”
Brachytherapy has evolved greatly since its beginning – Dr. Halperin says it has a long track record of success in prostate cancer and more recently in women’s womb cancers, such as cervical cancer. It’s also currently being developed for the treatment of breast cancers.
According to Dr. Halperin, BC Cancer Foundation donors have played a significant role in advancing the latest research into brachytherapy.
“In Kelowna in particular, the community raised the money to buy the inaugural equipment that allowed us to start the prostate brachytherapy program,” he says. “And the development of brachytherapy in breast cancer also owes its progress to community and donor support – had we not had the community support, it might have been another decade before it arrived.”
To continue to propel leading-edge innovation in brachytherapy at BC Cancer – Kelowna and ensure patients in the Interior continue to have access to world-class care, the Foundation has embarked on a $3.5 million fundraising initiative to establish a Chair in Brachytherapy at the centre.
To learn how you can support pioneering research into targeted, precise cancer treatment, visit www.bccancerfoundation.com/why-give/BC-cancer-centre/Kelowna