Linear Accelerator (LINAC) and Its Uses

A Linear accelerator (LINAC) is the device most commonly used for external beam radiation for patients with cancer.

It is used to treat all parts or organs of the body. It is also used to treat the areas that are on or close to skin surface.

Advanced LINAC has the capability to deliver another type of treatment  it uses electron instead of high energy x-rays(photons).

It delivers high energy x-rays or electrons to the region of patients tumor. A Linear Accelerator destroys cancer cells while sparing surrounding normal tissue.

It is routinely checked by the medical physicist to ensure that ut is working properly. It also has a built in safety measures which ensures that it will not deliver a higher dose than prescribed.

If someone for example is scheduled for a radiation therapy using LINAC, the radiation Oncologist will collaborate with a radiation Dosimetrist and a medical physicist to develop a treatment plan.

The doctor has to double check this plan before treatment begin and will also implement a quality assurance procedures to ensure that each treatment is delivered at the exact same manner.

READ ALSO: 20 Cancer Treatment Centres in Nigeria

What is Linear Accelerator Used for

Linear Accelerator is used to treat organs using the following:

Conventional techniques, intensity-modulatwd Radiation Therapy (IMRT)

Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT)

Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT)

Stereotactic Radio Surgery (SRS) and

Stereo tactic Body Radio Therapy (SBRT).

The resonating cavity frequency of the medical LINACS is 3 billion Hert. It uses microwave technology to accelerate electrons in a part of the LINAC which is called wave guide, it then allows these electrons to collide with heavy metal target.

This collision brings high energy x-rays (photons) which are produced from targets.

There aim is to break the DNA in all the cells within the treatment area when these high energy photons enter the patient’s body. The bad cells which are cancerous are unable to mend themselves but the good cells will and the cancerous therefore dies.

Read also: Healthy Vegetables that keep the Doctor Away

Where To Find Linear Accelerator (LINAC) In Nigeria

There are only eight radiotherapy machines in the whole of Nigeria. Seven of them are in different teaching hospitals across the country, the eighth being the one at Eko Hospital in Lagos.

The number of cancer patients are so much in Nigeria.

The eight machines are not all functional the affected patients have to wait by taking turns but some unfortunately cannot wait anymore before being killed by the disease.

Radiotherapy is one of the key regimens to fight against cancer. A cancer patient often needs the treatment at one point or the other so it is  better not to start it than to have a break in the sessions.

Only two government hospitals had radiotherapy machines in a nation of 170million people. The two machines are to be found at the National Hospital, Abuja and Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto.

It is said that there are eight radiotherapy machines in Nigeria— seven in government-owned hospitals and there is another one in a private hospital.The hospitals with radiotherapy machines are :

1. LUTH

2. University of Beniorganshing Hospital, Beni

3. University College Hospital Ibadan

4. National Hospital Abuja

5. Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital Zaria

6. Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto

7. University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu

8. Lagos-based private hospital, Eko Hospital.

Five of these machines in Lagos, Benin, Abuja, Enugu and Sokoto were linear accelerators.

Three were old Cobalt-60 machines, found in Zaria, Ibadan and Eko Hospital. Currently only two of these are functioning in Nigeria.

How Much Does Chemotherapy Cost in Nigeria?

A source at the Cancer Treatment Centre at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi Araba told The Guardian that an average cancer patient, on regular screening, clinical assessment and chemotherapy, over the course of a year, may accumulate N5 million to N20 million or more in medical bills depending on the type of cancer, the type of treatment and where the treatment is being accessed.

The Guardian also reliably gathered that cost of cancer treatment in LUTH is one of the cheapest in the country because the Federal Government has subsidized it.

It was further revealed that Nigeria has no comprehensive cancer centre, and lacks adequate treatment facilities hence citizens are compelled to spend over $200 million annually on treatment abroad, often in India which has over 120 cancer centres, mostly established through non-governmental effort, with private sector support. (Source: The Guardian).

Read also: National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in Nigeria

It is worthy to note that there is an urgent need for more standard cancer treatments with radiotherapy services in Nigeria.

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