Radiation therapy is the use of radiation to treat a variety of medical conditions, especially cancer. It is often used following surgery or in addition to chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is usually administered by large machines that produce high energy X-rays or electrons (negatively charged particles). Depending on the location and type of treatment, radioactive materials may be implanted directly in the tumor or introduced through tubes places in the specific site of interest.
Watch this video from the American Society for Radiation Oncology to learn more about how radiation therapy works.
Our radiation therapy departments offer state-of-the-art equipment and software along with highly-trained and experienced professionals. Patients benefit from a full range of conventional as well as sophisticated radiation techniques. We offer many different treatment modalities for cancer and other benign diseases.
The following treatment technologies are available for radiation therapy:
- 3-Dimensional Conformal Therapy: This allows us to shape the radiation beam around the tumor thereby limiting exposure to normal healthy tissues. 3-D Conformal Therapy involves the use of Computer Tomography (CT) images to construct a 3-D, computer-generated re-creation of the internal organs and the tumor. This allows the radiation oncologist to target the treatment area while minimizing side effects.
- Brachytherapy (Interstitial, High Dose Rate): Radioactive seed implants using Iodine 125 or Palladium are available. Implants may be the primary treatment for a patient diagnosed with prostate cancer, or combined with external beam therapy. This treatment plan often eliminates a long course of treatment and multiple visits for external beam radiation therapy.
- Computer Tomography (CT) Scanning and Simulation: Computer Tomography (CT) Scanning is used to map the organs and structures within the body. When a treatment plan is developed, a CT Simulation is necessary to acquire measurements and other technical data. The patient is positioned on the CT scanner table where multiple scans are performed to generate a digital 3-D reconstruction of the tumor area. The information collected during simulation helps the radiation oncologist and other staff prepare and deliver the radiation.
- Gamma Knife: The Gamma Knife is a radiation-delivery system for nonsurgical treatment of most benign and malignant brain tumors that otherwise can’t be reached because of their size and location. The Gamma Knife directs 192 precise beams of radiation from different angles so that they converge inside the brain, delivering just the right dose at exactly the right spot.
- Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT): This radiation treatment supported by enhanced graphic targeting. By targeting the treatment area using 2 and 3-D imagery, we can achieve better patient outcomes with fewer side effects. This is particularly useful when addressing prostate, breast, lung, spine, head/neck cancers and other sites in the body. The clinician can retarget the treatment area daily to, not only to overcome any movement of internal organs, but also to adjust for the change in size and shape of the cancer.
- Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy
(IMRT): This involves the use of multiple high-energy x-ray beams to target the tumor. The radiation beams are calculated in advance as part of a patient specific treatment plan to deliver precise radiation while minimizing the dose to the normal surrounding tissues. The strength of the beams can be adjusted as necessary depending on the size, location and stage of the cancer.
- RapicArc: RapidArc® is a volumetric arc therapy that delivers a precisely sculpted 3-D dose distribution with a single 360-degree gantry rotation. By using an advanced algorithm that simultaneously changes the rotation speed of the gantry, shape of the treatment aperture and the delivery dose rate, treatments are often delivered in less than 2 minutes. Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT) differs from existing techniques like helical IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) or Intensity-modulated Arc Therapy (IMAT) because it delivers the dose to the entire tumor site, rather than slice by slice.
- Respiratory Gating: Treating cancerous tumors, while avoiding exposure to normal healthy tissue, is the goal of radiation therapy. Respiratory Gating is a newer technology that allows the radiation treatment to be synchronized to an individual's breathing pattern, thus targeting the tumor only when it is in the best range for treatment. This is particularly important when treating lung and upper gastrointestinal tumors. By monitoring breathing through the treatment, the radiation oncologist can choose the best moment in a patient's breathing cycle to deliver the treatment.
- Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS): SRS is a specialized technique for radiation treatment that is effective for select brain tumors. This technique has such a dramatic reducing effect on the tumor that the post treatment results are considered "surgical". The procedure involves treating the tumor with focused beams of radiation using a high degree of precision in one to five treatments. It also facilitates maximal protection of normal brain and nerve tissue. For patients, this treatment is usually completed within one week allowing them to return to normal activity more quickly.
- Sterotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT): SBRT is a high-dose treatment for select cancers in the body delivered in one to five sessions. This technique using focused radiation has such a dramatic reducing effect on the tumor, that the post treatment results are considered to be as effective as surgery. SBRT is an effective alternative to invasive surgery for many cases, especially for tumors located close to vital structures that have been deemed inoperable. It offers the flexibility to treat more tumors and allows higher doses to be safely delivered. SBRT also permits re-treatment of cancer recurrence involving previously irradiated tumor sites.
- Superficial X-Ray Therapy: This therapy uses beams of low-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells while sparing the healthy tissue that surrounds the area being treated. In general, the higher the energy of the X-rays, the more deeply they can penetrate into the tissues of the body. Because superficial therapy uses a very low-energy X-ray, the maximum dose of radiation is delivered directly to the first few layers of skin, destroying the cancer cells, but minimizing radiation to deeper tissues.
- TheraSpheres: This is an innovative treatment for liver cancer involving the insertion of a catheter to deliver radioactive beads directly to the tumor.
- Total Body Irradiation (TBI): TBI involves irradiation of the entire body. It is typically used in conjunction with high dose chemotherapy in adult and pediatric patients undergoing stem cell transplantation for leukemias, lymphomas and other blood cancers.