Cancer Center News

An open letter to the Mass General community in response to national concerns about the safety of radiation delivery technology.

Radiation Oncology Safety at Mass General

Our dedication to excellence in patient care and treatment delivery is backed by an extensive quality assurance program.

01/Feb/2010

Recent articles in the New York Times and spots on the ABC Nightly News have reported on uniquely unfortunate scenarios involving radiation therapy technology. The stories in the New York Times (January 24th and 27th) highlighted failures, both human and technological, which resulted in serious overdoses of radiation to patients. The journalists point to the almost exponential technological advances in the fields of Radiation Oncology, and cite disproportionate lags in safeguards surrounding the advancing technology.

The discipline of Radiation Oncology has in fact grown exponentially, not only at large academic medical centers like Massachusetts General Hospital, but at smaller community centers as well. The advances have greatly improved treatment delivery, and significantly reduced side-effects of radiation. Special software programs verify the proper treatment parameters daily, and in the vast majority of cases, optimal treatment is delivered.

While no institution is without risk of error, at the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Radiation Oncology, we take painstaking measures to deliver the best possible treatment to our patients. We have an extraordinarily bright, highly educated staff of physicians, physicists, radiation therapists, nurses, engineers, and administrators is profoundly dedicated to excellence in patient care and treatment delivery, backed by an extensive quality assurance program with rigorous safety measures. Pre-treatment checks are performed by dedicated staff on all treatment plans, charts are reviewed weekly by physicists and in peer-review chart rounds and monthly quality assurance meetings are held vigilantly to develop strategies to improve care and reduce the risk of errors.

We are, as a group, most assuredly going to examine the reported errors in the New York Times and ABC news, and investigate ways to make our existing Quality and Safety program even more robust. Patients have been provided with a letter from Paul Busse, M.D., Ph.D., Clinical Chief of Radiation Oncology addressing issues raised in the New York Times articles, and, thus far, seem very comfortable and trusting of their treatment here at Massachusetts General Hospital. We will openly address any concerns patients and their families may have.

Respectfully Submitted,

Maida Williams Broudo A.B., R.T.T.
Clinical Liaison, Radiation Oncology

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