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Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays that target specific cancer sites. Radiation may be used to destroy cancer cells, relieve symptoms associated with cancer and/or prevent the cancer from returning. Your treatment is custom-tailored and unique to your diagnosis, tumor size, location and involvement. Your radiation oncologist (a doctor who specializes in treating cancer with radiation) will review all available treatment options and recommend a personalized plan for you based on national guidelines, which guide all cancer treatments. Radiation therapy is used either alone or in combination with other treatments such as chemotherapy, hyperthermia and surgery.

Different types of radiation – such as 3-D CRT (3 Dimensional Conformal Radiation Therapy), IGRT (Image-Guided Radiation Therapy), IMRT (Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy), Partial Breast Irradiation, Prostate Seeds and HDR (High-Dose Radiation Therapy), as well as radiopharmaceuticals – are used to treat specific types of cancers.

Radiation can be delivered either from outside the body with a machine called a linear accelerator (external beam radiation) or from a radiation source implanted permanently or temporarily in the body (brachytherapy).

Sign up for our Patient Portal to learn more about the radiation therapy your doctor has prescribed for you.

Advanced TomoTherapy® Technology

TomoTherapy technology integrates IMRT/IGRT and CT scanner into one machine. While conventional radiation technology delivers treatments from only a few angles, TomoTherapy treatments are delivered continuously from 360°. This gives our radiation oncologists more control in how they plan treatments and more assurance that dose will be confined to the tumor, reducing the risk of short- and long-term side effects.

CT imaging can be used on a daily basis to guide the accurate delivery of each treatment session. No other radiation therapy machine offers this seamless integration of image-guided and intensity-modulated radiation therapy.

Benefits of TomoTherapy include:

  • Uses daily CT to guide treatment based on images for that day, rather than for last week or last month
  • Customizes delivery for each patient, surrounding the target with highly-precise radiation delivered from all angles
  • Minimizes radiation exposure to healthy tissue
  • If necessary, it can adapt the treatment plan at any point

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.