We recognize that cancer treatment often requires a multidisciplinary approach that includes surgical, medical, and/or radiation oncology, also known as radiation therapy or radiotherapy. That is why we have several clinical locations, strategically located throughout our network, where patients can receive radiation therapy in the same location as other services, such as chemotherapy.
Over 50% of cancer patients will undergo radiation therapy; for some, it will be the only cancer treatment needed. Radiation is used in the successful treatment of skin cancer, eliminating the need for surgery in some cases. Radiation is often used in combination with other treatments. Used before or during other procedures, radiation shrinks the tumor to make surgery or chemotherapy more effective. Used afterward, it destroys any cancer cells that might remain.
Radiation therapy effectively treats cancer by using high-energy beams of radiation to pinpoint and destroy cancerous cells. Although radiation therapy is similar to an X-ray, the dose of radiation in cancer treatment is much stronger and is given over a longer period of time. Many forms of radiation are available in modern cancer treatment, and if radiation treatment is indicated, your oncologist will refer you to see a physician called a radiation oncologist. In consultation with you and your other physicians, the radiation oncologist will choose the best therapy based on the type, stage, and location of your cancer.
There are two basic types of radiation therapy:
Internal radiation, or brachytherapy, involves radioactive material that is implanted in the body at the tumor site. Permanent placement of the radioactive material is usually indicated in LDR, or low dose radiotherapy, in which the radioactive material is contained within small “seeds” such as those used to treat prostate cancer.
External beam radiation uses specialized machines called linear accelerators to administer a high dose of radiation directly to the cancer site and a small amount of healthy tissue at the margins of the tumor. Different radiation energies are used for tumors of various types or in different locations in the body. Two of the most common types of external beam treatments are 3D and IMRT.
Radiotherapy is a very detailed and intricate procedure that requires thorough preparation. It is always wise to consult your oncologist about any aspect of radiotherapy, especially about its side effects. With enough knowledge and understanding about this treatment method, it is possible to undergo radiation therapy with ease and few complications.