As part of the cancer care multi-disciplinary team, radiation oncologists coordinate every aspect of care, with surgeons and pathologists to help decide the best course of treatment for each patient.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles or waves, much like X-rays, gamma rays, electrons, or protons to destroy or damage cancer cells. Radiation therapy also is known as radiotherapy.
Radiation therapy is one of the most commonly used treatments for cancer. Radiation may be the primary treatment for some types of cancer, such as cancers of the head and neck, prostate, lung and Hodgkins disease. Radiation therapy may be used in combination with surgery and chemotherapy to treat many cancers.
How Radiation Therapy Works
All cells, whether cancerous or healthy, grow and divide to form new cells. But cancer cells grow and divide more quickly than many of the normal cells around them.
Radiation therapy uses special equipment to deliver high doses of radiation to cancerous cells, killing or damaging them so they cannot spread. Radiation works by breaking a strand of the DNA molecule inside the cancer cell. Although some normal cells may be affected by radiation, most recover fully from the effects of the treatment. Unlike chemotherapy which exposes the entire body to cancer-fighting chemicals, radiation therapy is a local treatment.
Many forms of radiation are available. The best choice for you depends on the type of cancer you have, the extent of the cancer, and its location. Different types of cancer react to radiation in different ways, so treatments vary. Also, it takes time for the body to get rid of dead cancer cells. After you have completed treatment, months often pass before the tumor is completely gone.
What to Expect
With careful planning, radiation can be directed to the cancer and away from most normal tissues. This means you may receive treatment on more than one side of your body or from different angles. You also may need more than one type of radiation, which may require the use of more than one machine.
Once the type of radiation therapy or therapies have been prescribed, an appointment will be made for a planning session (simulation). The simulation visit includes seeing your doctor and setting up your treatment plan. Be prepared to spend one to three hours in the simulation visit.
Simulation is done to locate the exact area to be treated. The radiation therapist will move you into the same position you will use for your actual treatments. During the simulation, the radiation therapist will take imaging scans of the treatment area.
Benefits of Radiation Therapy
Targeted radiation therapy to cancer areas allows for tumors and cancer cells to receive a maximum amount of radiation while surrounding healthy tissue receives only a small amount of radiation.
Types of Radiation Therapy
The Radiation Oncology Center features state-of-the-art technology, and passionate, caring multi-disciplinary teams including physicians, radiation therapists, dosimetrists, physicists, nurses, social workers and support staff. Different types of radiation therapies are available for different types of cancers and are offered at specific cancer center locations, some include: