What is Radiation Therapy?
Many types of cancer can be treated by exposing the diseased area to radiation therapy. St. Elizabeth Cancer Care has state-of-the-art linear accelerators that treat cancer with a varied arsenal of radiation techniques. Modern technology provides energy-specific radiation, which centers treatment on a prescribed point in the body and minimizes effects to surrounding tissue. Many types of cancer can be treated by exposing the diseased area to radiation. St. Elizabeth Cancer Care has state-of-the-art linear accelerators that treat cancer with a varied arsenal of radiation techniques. Modern technology provides energy-specific radiation, which centers treatment on a prescribed point in the body and minimizes effects to surrounding tissue.
Planning for Radiation Treatments
Before the first treatment, a dedicated CAT scan simulation is used by the physician to pinpoint the exact area to be treated. A sophisticated three-dimensional computer planning system calculates the best method for delivery of the precise amount of radiation necessary to destroy the cancer. Most radiation treatment is given externally, which is very similar to getting an x-ray. Radioactive implants may also be used for patients requiring very intense radiation to a localized area. St. Elizabeth Cancer Care offers HDR or High Dose Rate radiation therapy for certain disease types. HDR is a method for delivering radiation via radioactive seeds or sources inserted directly into or very near the tumor. Advantages of HDR include fewer side effects, convenience of an outpatient procedure, and quicker recovery.
What to Expect During Radiation Therapy
The actual radiation treatment lasts only a few minutes and the majority of that time is spent positioning you on the table. Markings placed on your skin during simulation will assist the radiation therapists in aiming the radiation beam. You can expect to be in Cancer Care for 20-30 minutes for each treatment. The radiation therapists will perform your treatment every day based on instructions from your physician. Your physician will see you at least once a week and more often if your needs require. Radiation treatments are given daily, Monday – Friday, excluding major holidays.
Side Effects of Radiation Therapy
The side effects of radiation differ depending on the area of the body being treated. Expected side effects will be discussed at your initial consultation. Radiation therapy, brachytherapy and other types of cancer treatments are administered with many safeguards to protect you from risk and unnecessary irradiation to parts of the body not requiring treatment. In order to spare normal tissue, customized molds and blocks may be fabricated to position you during treatment.
Unlike chemotherapy, which is administered to the entire body via the bloodstream, radiation is a form of energy directed and restricted to the area of the tumor. The radiation is not absorbed by the rest of the body, nor are you “radioactive” when you leave the treatment room.
Remember, each individual’s treatment is different. The side effects you experience might not be the same as that of someone else. Any concerns or problems you have may be directed to the radiation oncology nurse or radiation therapist. If a staff member is unable to answer your questions, we will refer it to one of the physicians, who are always on call. If problems arise after 5 p.m. or on holidays or weekends, call your physician to speak with the physician on-call.