New Cancer Treatment Room at SOMC Shines With Images of Nature

  • When you open the door to the high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy treatment room at Southern Ohio Medical Center, you might think you have stepped into a garden. The walls shine with the images of birds and butterflies, flowers and trees, blue sky with white clouds. There’s even a small structure that looks like a child’s playhouse.

    The structure is actually a lead booth where patients receive one of the newest radiation treatments for cancer. The room itself is one of the most unique in the United States.

    SOMC’s Cancer Center was the first facility in the country to utilize an HDR Tx Booth, a lead-lined unit which is placed inside a normal room and used for HDR radiation treatments. The concept is unique because the entire room does not have to be lead-lined, according to Wendi Waugh, R.T. (R)(T) CMD CTR, administrative director of the Cancer Center.

  • In HDR brachytherapy, a highly radioactive source is placed at the site of a patient’s cancer. This treatment is primarily used with breast, lung, skin and gynecological cancer patients. The source, which is no larger than a grain of rice, is left in the body five to 10 minutes. Because the treatment involves use of radioactive materials, the procedure must take place in a lead-lined location.

    The room grew out of what Waugh termed a long-time need for HDR brachytherapy in the community. “We had one normal-sized lead-lined room but needed another one for the HDR brachytherapy treatments. We looked at building a second room but that was not making sense economically.”

    At the same time Waugh was looking for a solution to her problem, Tom Rhea, a physicist with Advanced Physics Solutions in Franklin, Tn., was looking for a customer for a small lead booth he’d designed for HDR brachytherapy treatments.

  • The mural on the room’s wall and the painted booth add to the facility’s uniqueness, Waugh said.

    “I’m being nice when I say it (the booth) looked like a building you’d put a lawnmower in,” Waugh added with a laugh. When the unit arrived at the Cancer Center, “It was a functional lead box. We have a beautiful center here and this did not meet our standards. We wanted a warm, comfortable, inviting area for our patients.”

    Franklin Furnace Artist Keiva Jenkins worked on the room and booth in stages over a 10-day period.

  • The booth, which weighs approximately 23,000 pounds, arrived in pieces in November 2008, and was assembled inside the treatment room. It’s about the size of a child’s playhouse with interior measurements of 7’4” long by 4’6” wide by 5’ high. The unit has interior lighting, piped-in music, a camera and intercom monitoring system and forced air ventilation.

    “It’s inviting and it gives patients a calm, serene and open atmosphere during treatment,” said Waugh.

    For more information on HDR Brachytherapy, visit Southern Ohio Medical Center’s Cancer Center on the web at www.somc.org/cancer.