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Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that delivers high doses of energy to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. It can also ease cancer symptoms and help prevent the cancer from returning. Radiation therapy eliminates cancer cells by breaking them down so they can no longer grow and divide.

Once the cancer cells are beyond self-repair, which can take a few days to several weeks of treatment, they are naturally removed by the body. This process can continue for several weeks or months after completing radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is given both exclusively or in conjunction with other cancer treatments including chemotherapy and surgery.

There are several types of external radiation therapy. Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) involves the use of frequent imaging during a course of radiation to improve delivery precision and accuracy. 3D Conformal Radiation Therapy (3D CRT) is a technique used to shape the radiation beam to the shape of the tumor. Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) takes advantage of computer-based treatment planning and delivery to create shaped dose distributions which can conform to complex tumor shapes and still spare the nearby normal tissues.

Your radiation oncologist will partner with you, while adhering to documented national guidelines for cancer care, to ensure your treatment is specifically tailored to your diagnosis and tumor size and location.

Radiation therapy can also be delivered internally from a source implanted inside the body at the cancer site. Please visit our Brachytherapy page for detailed information about this specific type of treatment.

Our Advanced TomoTherapy® Technology

TomoTherapy combines the precision of Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) with the real-time CT scan based target localization, also known as Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT). This innovative treatment gives your radiation oncologists even more precision in how they plan and guide every treatment.

Before each treatment, a 3-dimentional (3-D) image of the tumor is taken to verify its precise size, shape and location. Your radiation oncologists then compare this current image with previous scans to ensure they are delivering the most accurate dose of radiation to the tumor site while minimizing exposure to surrounding healthy tissue and organs. The TomoTherapy radiation machine rotates around the patient in a spiral pattern, meaning radiation is delivered from all angles which helps ensure the most precise delivery to the tumor.

Benefits of TomoTherapy

TomoTherapy’s ability to incorporate radiation therapy and 3-D imaging to each patient’s specific treatment plan, helping to reduce the occurrence of short- and long-term side effects. This enables your radiation therapy team to monitor the tumor position and size on a daily basis, and allows for the most targeted delivery of radiation possible. Higher doses of energy can also be utilized, potentially increasing the efficacy of treatment.

What to Expect

You will have a CT scan or MRI to create a personalized treatment plan. Your doctor will use 3D images and special software to establish the precise contours for each tumor and any regions of risk (sensitive organs or structures). Your doctor will decide how much radiation the tumor should receive and the appropriate pattern, position and intensity of the radiation beam will be calculated.

Ink marks or small tattoo-like dots may be placed on your skin in the area of the tumor to ensure the radiation is delivered to the tumor. You may also need a custom-fitted molded device to help keep you in the same position before and during treatment.

Radiation treatments happen Monday through Friday for a number of weeks, usually for 5-8 weeks. Weekend breaks, on Saturday and Sunday, allow your normal cells to recover and assist your healing process.

Our radiation therapists will bring you from the waiting room, into the treatment room with the TomoTherapy® linear accelerator (radiation machine). The therapist will make you comfortable in the room and assist you in getting positioned on the treatment table.

A CT scan will be taken before each treatment to verify the position of the tumor. Your position will be adjusted if necessary to help make sure radiation is directed precisely where it should be.

Two therapists will align the laser to the target on your skin, indicated by the “tattoo-like” markings. Alignment takes only a couple of minutes. The therapists will leave the room to deliver and monitor your treatment.

During the treatment the machine will circulate around your body. You won’t feel anything. It’s much like having an x-ray. Sometimes the specific area of skin receiving treatment can get tender and sunburned, your healthcare team will want to know if you are experiencing any burning or discomfort during your treatment. Your healthcare team will guide you with proper care of your skin.

Typically the treatment takes about 10-15 minutes.

The most common side effect of radiation therapy is fatigue – it is very important to get plenty of rest and adequate nutrition. Generally, you will see your doctor weekly. We are always available if you need us.