In 2013 I experienced the shock & trauma of my 1st radiation therapy treatment in a mask for stage four oropharyngeal cancer.
I promised myself, if I survived, to help improve patient education BEFORE the 1st session.
Prior to that first treatment, I had never seen a LINAC or a bunker & I hadn’t understood what would be involved with the mask.
In the 2013 edition of the Cancer Council booklet, “Understanding Head & Neck Cancer” there were no pictures of a LINAC or mask or person in a mask.
There was only one sentence that mentioned the mask. There was no heading mentioning the mask.
(The current edition does have a heading, written explanation & pictures, plus my story with tips for coping with the mask experience.)
Prior to my first treatment, I was not shown any pictures of a LINAC or of a person in a mask on a LINAC.
I simply did not comprehend what was about to happen to me.
This is the case for many patients I have spoken to. Patients who cannot read or who cannot read English are especially vulnerable.
I am so grateful this model has been created.
As you know, I have struggled to weep since my first radiation therapy treatment, after which I had a big sob in the car park & then froze.
But if I could cry, i would cry with gratitude to everyone who has brought this project to create a visual educational tool to this important milestone.
Connor, Peter & Sean have been superb. Thank you! Connor, a school student whose grandmother had successful treatment in a mask, designed & created this model. Peter is his Dad & the son of the patient. Dr Sean Geoghegan is State Director of Radiation Oncology Medical Physics for the South Australia and a Director of the Australasian College of Physical Scientists and Engineers in Medicine (ACPSEM).
Now we need your help to promote this educational tool so that patients & family members can see a model as part of their education BEFORE the first session of radiation therapy.
Obviously, it is useful for all patients. But how thrilling is it to see the little 3D printed mask! This will help head & neck caner & brain cancer patients understand by “seeing” what will happen in the bunker.
Our dream: a model on the desk of every radiation oncologist; a model for every pre-treatment educator; & a model on display, with brief written information, in every waiting room outside a bunker