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Doctors Look At Radioactive Seeds To Help Treat Lung Cancer

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http://www.thepittsburghchannel.com/hea ... etail.html

POSTED: 4:09 pm EDT May 5, 2006

UPDATED: 4:37 pm EDT May 5, 2006

In an effort to treat lung cancer, doctors have changed the techniques of two existing treatments.

The surgery is a type of lumpectomy of the lung. Then surgeons zap the cancerous spot with a more precise type of radiation that can kill any leftover cancer cells without damaging the rest of the lung.

William and Alberta Greer love to share their gardening plans. Not long ago they thought they wouldn't have that little bit of pleasure

"I was terrified. I was terrified. I thought, 'Oh, no,'" Alberta said.

Her terror began when her husband of 51 years got pneumonia. He survived. But seven months later, his symptoms returned.

"It wasn't pneumonia. It was a heart problem. And also at that particular time, I had a lung tumor," William said.

It was early lung cancer. Forty years of smoking made his lungs look like Swiss cheese. Removing even a lobe was out of the question.

So, his surgeon did something new. He removed a wedge through Williams' ribs.

"The less damage that you cause hopefully the more function you preserve," said Dr. Robert Keenan, chief of thoracic surgery.

The tiny seeds, barely a centimeter long, are actually the carriers of the radiation. They're sewn into a mesh and that mesh, in turn, is placed over the area where surgeons removed the tumor.

It's done at the time of surgery after cancer is confirmed.

"It's a more precise way of doing it because you give a very intense burst of radiation, but the radiation doesn't travel very far," Keenan said.

So, already weakened lungs are spared radiation.

William was treated in March. So far, so good, William said.

"They brought be through. It was a miracle," William said.

Zapping lung cancer with radioactive seeds is only for those who can't withstand the traditional treatment of removing the lung.

Keenan has shared his techniques with other centers and a trial is going on to see if his good results can be repeated.

If so, doctors will then try it with patients who have good lungs.

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