Cancer care at Swansea’s Singleton Hospital is improved with the use of 3D printing technology, reports

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3D printing revolutionizes cancer treatment at Swansea’s Singleton Hospital in Wales by providing specialized accessories called boluses that ensure precise radiotherapy doses for cancers near the surface of the head or neck. Traditionally, patients undergoing head or neck radiotherapy wear a thermoplastic mask to immobilize their head and neck for accurate treatment. However, sometimes a bolus is required to optimize radiation delivery. Previously, these boluses were handcrafted from wax, which was time-consuming and prone to imperfections.

The breakthrough occurred when Rhys Jenkins, an advanced radiotherapy physics technologist, realized the potential of 3D printing for bolus production. By using 3D printing, the boluses can be precisely matched to the treatment plan, ensuring accurate placement and eliminating air gaps. This advancement not only improves treatment accuracy but also saves valuable staff time.

The 3D-printed boluses act as tissue material and allow radiation to build up at the correct depth before reaching the patient’s skin. This level of precision was difficult to achieve with manual methods, often resulting in errors in shape and placement. However, with the introduction of 3D printing, these problems are now solved. The boluses are designed during the treatment planning stage and printed exactly as intended, seamlessly fitting onto the treatment shell. This boosts confidence in treatment delivery and significantly reduces the risk of errors.

Russell Banner, a consultant clinical oncologist at Singleton, explains, “The 3D printing has enabled highly accurate and quality-assured boluses to be produced from 3D planning scans, minimizing uncertainty and bringing the dose to exactly where we need it. The printer even prints overnight while we are sleeping to ensure there are no delays in the treatment pathway.”

Patients greatly benefit from the use of 3D-printed boluses. The process is quicker and more comfortable, as there is no need for molding to the treatment shell. This transition to 3D-printed boluses has been celebrated as a positive step for both patients and staff, streamlining the treatment process and improving the overall patient experience.

Overall, 3D printing has revolutionized cancer treatment by providing highly accurate and quality-assured boluses that minimize uncertainties and deliver precise radiation doses. This new advancement showcases the positive impact of additive manufacturing in cancer treatment, providing hope and confidence to patients and healthcare professionals alike.

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