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What is Radiation Oncology?

Radiation oncology describes cancer treatment that focuses on using radiotherapy which treats cancer by directing high-energy beams at cancer cells to destroy them and keep them from dividing and multiplying.

How is Radiation Oncology Used in Cancer Treatment?

The following are the most common types of radiation oncology used in cancer treatment. You might receive one or more of these therapies depending on your cancer type, location, and severity:

Ablative Cancer Therapy is a type of mild surgical cancer treatment for solid tumors that does not require major surgery. Doctors use special tube-like devices that destroy tumors by burning or freezing them.

Nuclear Medicine is a type of medicine that uses radioactive drugs to identify cancer cells. The radioactive liquid is injected into the veins where it travels through the body and attaches itself to tumor cells. When the drug attaches to the cells, it then attacks the cancer cells with radiation, causing them to die.

Radioembolization is a type of cancer treatment that combines two different types of cancer treatment—sealing off blood supply (or “embolization”) — and radiation. Therefore, this technique focuses on targeting the tumor’s blood supply. A surgeon injects the blood vessels that are feeding your tumor with radioactive beads that emit radiation that kills the cancer cells. At the same time, these beads also cut off the tumor’s blood supply, which prevents the tumor from getting the oxygen and vital nutrients it needs to live, grow, and spread.

What are some of the therapies I might expect?

Attacks tumors in a three-dimensional manner with photons (called “W-rays”) generated by a medical linear accelerator. Very small beams (as small as 2.5 x 5 millimeters) are aimed at a tumor and then rotated 360 degrees around the patient to provide the maximum dose of radiation while reducing exposure to healthy tissue.

Incorporates high-quality images – which are taken before treatment – to help focus the radiation extremely precisely on the cancerous area. This makes it possible to use higher doses of radiation for potentially shorter treatment schedules and better tumor control.

Uses three cameras to monitor thousands of points on a patient’s skin to reduce movement with sub-millimeter accuracy. This eliminates the need for guiding marks on the patient’s body and also shortens treatment time and makes daily treatments more efficient.

Starts by obtaining a 3-D image of the tumor via CT scan, MRI or PET scan, and then uses that information to design radiation beams that conform to the shape of the tumor. This spares the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor from being exposed to radiation, allowing for higher doses to be used on the tumor, for improved outcomes.

Is a type of 3-D conformal radiation therapy that uses radiation beams (usually X-rays) of varying intensities to deliver different doses of radiation to small areas of tissue at the same time. Additionally, the beams are sculpted to the unique shape of the tumor and can be rotated around the patient to attack the tumor from the best angles. This minimizes damage to nearby healthy tissue, which can lead to fewer side effects.

Places radioactive sources directly into or next to the cancer, which enables our staff to deliver a high dose with minimal impact to surrounding healthy tissue. HDR has proven to be a successful treatment for cancers of the prostate, cervix, endometrium, breast, skin, bronchus, esophagus, head and neck, and soft tissue sarcoma.