Patient Stories at NCH

Dorothy's Story

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CyberKnife technology targets tumors with extreme precision


It's a crushing blow, being told by your doctor that you only have two years to live. Feeling fearful yet undeterred, you may begin searching for other options and second opinions.

This is what happened to Dorothy Andry, 85, of Grayslake, when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Little did she know that only 25 miles away there was a groundbreaking option that could save her life.

Thankfully, one of Dorothy's family members did know about Northwest Community Healthcare and its doctors who use the CyberKnife® Stereotactic Radiosurgery System, a noninvasive treatment for cancer that delivers, with extreme accuracy, high-dose radiation therapy to tumors. With this new treatment option available, everything changed for Dorothy.

"My doctor (at a different hospital) told me even with six weeks of radiation, I maybe would have two years to live. At Northwest Community Hospital, I had three CyberKnife treatments—Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It was painless. My tumor is gone and I'm now a five-year lung cancer survivor."

Better Technology Means Better Care

CyberKnife utilizes a robotic, computer-controlled arm to target tumors with precision. "Even when you breathe during treatment, the tumor moves. CyberKnife's sophisticated tracking software targets the tumor in real time," says Stephen Nigh, MD, medical director of Radiation Oncology at NCH. The result is that CyberKnife "paints" only the tumor with radiation, sparing healthy surrounding tissue. It is ideal for patients like Dorothy, whose lungs were too weak for surgery and whose cancer had not spread.

Dr. Nigh says the technology reflects NCH's commitment to advanced patient care. "Whether it's CyberKnife, the da Vinci Si™ robotic surgical system, or Calypso® (also known as 'GPS for the Body'), Northwest Community Hospital does a great job at identifying and evaluating tools that provide technologically advanced care for patients," he says. To that point, NCH was the first hospital in northern Illinois to offer CyberKnife treatment.

Improving the Odds with Radiation Therapy

NCH backs its technological expertise with quality and safety. In fact, in September, NCH became the fourth hospital in Illinois to earn accreditation in Radiation Oncology by the American College of Radiology and the American Society for Radiation Oncology.

"Our accreditation confirms that we are delivering the highest standard of care. It reassures patients that safety is our top priority," Dr. Nigh says. "We strive to do what's right for each and every patient."

This means that patients like Dorothy have better odds at beating their disease. "Lung cancer is not a death sentence anymore," she says. "I'm living proof."