Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy

Cancer patients, who have never met Brenda McCarthy, have a lot to thank her for. Her dream, now fulfilled, is changing lives. Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT), a treatment recommended for some cancers is now available at the Cape Breton Cancer Centre (CBCC) It is thanks to Brenda.

Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) is an accelerated and ultra-precise form of radiation therapy that is recommended for certain cancers – Instead of several weeks the treatment is delivered in one to five days. The specialized equipment, immobilizes the body and enables pinpoint accuracy for treating tumors. This precision spares healthy tissue surrounding the tumor. Because it is delivered faster with fewer side effects, the treatment offers cancer patients a much greater quality of life.

Brenda McCarthy of North Sydney was told last year that the recommended treatment for pancreatic cancer was Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT), but because it was only offered in Halifax, she would need to travel back and forth several times. Unfortunately, Brenda wasn’t well enough to travel and was unable to benefit from the treatment. She was determined, though, to do her part to ensure others would have access to this specialized treatment right here in Cape Breton.

Brenda, with a team of friends and family, inspired a community to fully fund the equipment needed for SBRT. With more than $300,000 raised, a CDR immobilization device, which is critical to ensure ultra-high precision of the treatment, was purchased and commissioned as well as highly specialized physics measurement tools --all thanks to the dream Brenda had for others.

On June 1, 2020 Brenda passed away after a long and challenging journey with pancreatic cancer. From fundraising to sharing her story publicly and even receiving a call from Jeopardy’s Alex Trebek, also diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Brenda continued giving back to her community throughout her cancer journey. She took on cancer and created an opportunity to make cancer care better for others living in and close to Cape Breton.


Dr. Kwamena Beecham, the radiation oncologist lead at the Cape Breton Cancer Centre and a member of the provincial Department of Radiation Oncology, Dalhousie University, is excited to have this treatment available to his patients close to where they live. “With this new technology, we are able to put the patient first, reduce side effects and improve quality of life. It is wonderful that thanks to this very generous donation, we are able to make such a difference for patients, effectively keeping them home to take care of their normal life.”

Tynan Stevens, a medical physicist at the Cape Breton Cancer Centre and a lead member of the team enabling the delivery of this treatment agrees. “Meeting Brenda was an inspiration, and it was a privilege to be able to help bring this technically challenging treatment option to Cape Breton.”

Through Brenda’s efforts, 1,114 donors worked together to completely fund the CDR immobilization device and physics measurement tools and fulfil Brenda’s dream of bringing SBRT to Cape Breton – a dream that means patients living in and around Cape Breton now have access to this incredible treatment option close to where they live. This therapy option is currently used for patients with certain kinds of lung cancer, liver, prostate, spine or brain tumors. The Cape Breton Cancer Centre will first begin using this therapy for patients with certain kinds of lung cancer.

“It demonstrates the impact one person can make on an entire community,” said Rick McCarthy, Acting CEO of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation. “Brenda’s action inspired the entire community to come together to offer a new and exciting way to treat cancer in Cape Breton. Although Brenda passed away, she left us knowing how much her community cares. Her legacy will drastically change lives.”

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