What is Radiation Therapy?
At Summit Healthcare, we offer radiation therapy as a treatment for those who are diagnosed with cancer. Radiation therapy, also known as radiation oncology or therapeutic radiology, uses radiation to treat cancer as well as other diseases. Radiation therapy falls under the branch of medicine known as oncology. Oncology involves the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Due to recent advancements in medicine and technology we have been able to treat cancer with precision and efficiency like never before.
How Does Radiation Work?
Radiation comes in various forms and kills cancer cells by preventing them from multiplying. Oncologists can deliver radiation with incredible accuracy which allows them to target tumors while leaving healthy tissue unharmed. Patients can receive therapeutic radiology to cure, control, or alleviate some of the symptoms associated with cancer. Additionally, radiation therapy may be able to eliminate the need for surgery altogether.
Cancer we treat with Radiation
Here at Summit Healthcare Cancer Center, we treat a wide range of cancers. The types of cancer that we can treat with radiation include:
- Brain tumors
- Head and neck
Types of Radiation Oncology
Radiation oncology can be split into two categories, external beam radiation and internal radiation therapy. The first type, external beam radiation, is delivered through a beam of high-energy radiation. A linear accelerator produces a beam that targets the tumor within the body. Patients receive external radiation in limited doses and treatment sessions are complete in about a half hour. While the accelerator makes noises while operating, patients report that the procedure is painless.
In contrast, patients can receive internal therapy. This type of radiation, also known as brachytherapy, includes a radioactive source that is surgically implanted within the body. Doctors commonly place the source near or in the tumor to target the unhealthy cells. Our team will implant the radioactive source while the patient is under general anesthesia. They will then require a short hospital stay after implantation to make sure everything is operating smoothly. During a consultation at Summit Healthcare Cancer Center patients can go over which type of radiation is best to eliminate their tumor.
The Radiation Therapy Process
Although each facility may have specific protocols in place, generally, radiation oncology procedures include a treatment plan. First, our care team at Summit Healthcare Cancer Center will take initial scans, including X-rays and a CT scan. We will work together with a dosimetrist who will determine the amount of radiation and duration of treatment. Once the treatment plan is complete, treatment will begin.
To help set up the actual treatment, our treatment team will map out the position the patient will be in for each treatment with the aid of molds, headrests, or other devices. Sometimes, we mark the treatment area on the body to ensure the radiation beam will target the exact area. In addition, special shields are sometimes in place to help focus the radiation and protect surrounding tissue.
During treatment, radiation prevents cancer cells from reproducing by damaging the DNA of the cell. The cells will die and the body will absorb them with no harm to the patient. Depending on the treatment plan, radiology can be done alone or in conjunction with other treatment including chemotherapy or surgery.
Radiation Therapy Side Effects
Patients do not feel pain when receiving radiation, however, they may experience side effects as a result of treatment. The side effects will vary based on the location and type of cancer that the radiation is treating. Additionally, there is an extremely low risk that additional tumors will result from the radiation. The possibility of curing cancer and the tumor disappearing outweighs the risk of developing additional tumors.