Types of Radiation Treatments
Because radiation therapy can damage normal cells as well as cancer cells, your treatment must be carefully planned to avoid side effects. Your treatment plan is designed by our highly skilled radiation oncology team, which includes radiation oncologists, radiation physicists, dosimetrists, nurses and radiation therapists.
Many forms of radiation are available. Your oncologist will choose the best therapy based on the type, stage and location of your cancer. There are two basic types of radiation therapy:
- External beam radiation. Specialized machines are used to administer a high dose of radiation directly to the cancer site, including a small amount of healthy tissue at the margins of the tumor. Different machines are used for tumors of various types or in different locations in the body.
- Internal radiation or brachytherapy. Radioactive material is implanted in the body at the tumor site. Radiation implants are small tubes, seeds or capsules filled with different types of radioactive material and sealed.
Specific radiation therapies include:
- Stereotactic radiotherapy surgery (SRS). A breakthrough, pain-free alternative to surgery, the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System is used to precisely deliver high doses of radiation to your tumor with pinpoint accuracy to protect healthy tissue. Treatments are efficient, involving no incisions and producing minimal or no side effects.
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). Delivered via the Varian Trilogy with RapidArc, this computer-driven technology precisely delivers a specially conformed radiation beam in a three-dimensional manner while protecting surrounding organs and tissues from damaging exposure.
- Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT). IGRT delivered via the Varian Trilogy with RapidArc uses a fully robotic onboard imaging system to deliver high doses of precisely sculpted radiation to your tumor. The result is less harm to surrounding healthy tissue and shorter treatment times.
- High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy. HDR involves placing a protected source of high-energy radiation directly within the tumor using radioactive plaques, needles, tubes, wires, or small "seeds" made of radionuclides. These radioactive materials are placed over the surface of the tumor or implanted within the tumor; they can also be placed within a body cavity surrounded by the tumor. The high energy of the source used in HDR brachytherapy means that doctors can deliver large doses of radiation in just a few minutes by inserting and then removing the radioactive material.
- Low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy. With this type of internal radiation therapy, the patient receives low doses of radiation from implants containing radioactive material that are placed in the body close to or inside the tumor for an extended period of time. Tiny, hollow catheters are temporarily inserted directly into the tumor, and radioactive pellets are inserted into each catheter. With LDR brachytherapy, radiation is delivered at a continuous rate over one to seven days.
- Balloon breast brachytherapy (BBB). This technique is used to deliver radiation treatment for patients with early-stage breast cancer. It is given after lumpectomy, or surgical removal of a small breast cancer. This is a shorter alternative to the more traditional method of using seven weeks of external beam radiation.
- Endobronchial radiotherapy. This treatment is used to relieve symptoms of advanced lung cancer such as shortness of breath or cough. High-dose radiation is delivered to the obstructed bronchial area for a short period of time using a catheter (a short plastic tube) placed in the area to be treated. The radiation source is then placed into the catheter to reach the tumor site. The catheter is removed once treatment is complete.
- Image–guided brachytherapy (IGBT). IGBT makes brachytherapy more accurate, safe and effective. Imaging of the site using computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) allows for robotic delivery of radiation treatment .
- Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT). Radiation is delivered during surgery, rather than as a separate procedure. While the patient is still in the operating room, a high dose of radiation is focused on the remaining tissue surrounding a tumor that has been removed during surgery. In some cases, no further radiation treatment is required following IORT, making it a much more convenient approach for delivering therapy. Additionally, physicians are able to shield surrounding organs from radiation, limiting side effects to healthy tissue.
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