April 15, 1999
Doctor upbeat about new radiation treatment

Tossing a tennis ball from one hand to the other, Dr. Robert Behar appeared carefree as he talked about his recent marriage and love of air-planes.

As medical director of the Spring Branch Radiation Oncology Center, Behar, a Twin Lakes resident, has had reason to smile.

At 35, he can be considered as a pioneer in radiation treatment - one of four doctors in the United States using a new "invisible knife" method of radiation therapy that causes little or no side effects.

"Body Radiosurgery" has only been available for about three years. He learned to administer the procedure in 1997 from its developers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

At 4 p.m. Friday, patients continue to enter and exit the bustling office, chatting with their families and thumbing through shelves of literature on cancer prevention and treatment.
Behar, who also uses traditional methods to treat patients, has been pleased with the new procedure.

Body radiosurgery has been used on 70 patients since January of 1998. A 20- to 40-minute session required no incisions, no anesthesia and causes no pain. An adaptation of a "gamma knife" used in treating brain tumors, the method uses high concentrations of radiation, but pinpointed to a smaller area to spare healthy surrounding tissue.

The method has shown improvement and sometimes complete success with patients whose traditional treatments have failed, he said.

Behar's face darkened as he spoke of patients whose chemotherapy had not worked, or who had been told "to go home and die."
"If you can't make them well you shouldn't make them sick," he said. "It's just not worth it for them."

When it comes time to tell new patients they have cancer, Behar said he focuses on the treatment instead of the disease.

"You have to tell them the truth but you tell them the positives," he said. "You tell them that `yes, it is treatable.' And I have them come in and sit down with them. I never do it over the phone. That is horrendous."

Behar said although he learned to fly at age 15 and obtained a pilot's license at 17, he always had a deep interest in medicine and became interested in research while at the University of Chicago. He later decided he wanted to treat cancer patients.

"I find that people who have cancer have a major problem and they need a lot of help, both physically and emotionally," he said.
Behar and his wife, Mercedes, were married six months ago. She recently moved to the United States from Venezuela, where the couple met, and is now studying English.

The founder of Western Radiation Oncology Associates Behar is the medical director of the radiation oncology departs at Spring Branch, Rose and Columbia Conroe medical centers. A native of Chicago, Behar was director of brachytherapy at Memorial Regional Medical Center in Florida.

He has been medical director of the Spring Branch Radiation Oncology Center since inception in 1994.

For more information on radiation therapy treatments, visit