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Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays that target specific cancer sites. Radiation may be used to destroy cancer cells, relieve symptoms associated with cancer and/or prevent the cancer from returning. Your treatment is custom-tailored and unique to your diagnosis, tumor size, location and involvement. Your radiation oncologist (a doctor who specializes in treating cancer with radiation) will review all available treatment options and recommend a personalized plan for you based on national guidelines, which guide all cancer treatments. Radiation therapy is used either alone or in combination with other treatments such as chemotherapy, hyperthermia and surgery.

Different types of radiation – such as 3-D CRT (3 Dimensional Conformal Radiation Therapy), IGRT (Image-Guided Radiation Therapy), IMRT (Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy), Partial Breast Irradiation, Prostate Seeds and HDR (High-Dose Radiation Therapy), as well as radiopharmaceuticals – are used to treat specific types of cancers.

Radiation can be delivered either from outside the body with a machine called a linear accelerator (external beam radiation) or from a radiation source implanted permanently or temporarily in the body (brachytherapy).

Highly Personalized & Precise

We have an experienced and compassionate team of experts including doctors, physicist, dosimetrist and radiation therapists who work together to carefully create and deliver a treatment plan designed to ensure the best possible outcome. Our team utilizes advanced IGRT (Image-Guided Radiation Therapy) and IMRT (Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy).

IGRT provides high-resolution, 3-D images that allow our oncologist to view and track tumors while a patient is on the table. Knowing exactly where the tumor is allows our cancer treatment specialists to fine-tune positioning, compensate for motion and breathing, irradiate only the tumor.

IMRT uses these advanced computer images to adjust the intensity (dose), direction and shape of radiation beams delivered to the tumor. This precision targets the tumor and spares adjacent healthy tissue.

What to Expect

You will have a CT scan, PET scan or MRI to create a personalized treatment plan. A specialized team including your oncologist and a medical physicist will use 3D images and special computer software to establish the precise contours for each tumor and any regions of risk (sensitive organs or structures). Dr. Scharlach will decide how much radiation the tumor should receive and the appropriate pattern, position and intensity of the radiation beam will be calculated.

Ink marks or small tattoo-like dots may be placed on your skin in the area of the tumor to ensure the radiation is delivered to the tumor. The markings are visible on your skin, but only in the area of the tumor and are not permanent. They are designed to fade and will begin to disappear towards the end of your radiation treatments. Occasionally, the markings will have to be reapplied to your skin during treatment. It is very important that you do not scrub the markings, during your bathing/showering. Your radiation therapist will discuss with you how to care for your skin during your treatments, including protecting the markings. You may also need a custom-fitted molded device to help keep you in the same position before and during treatment.

Radiation treatments happen Monday through Friday for a number of weeks, usually for 5-8 weeks. Weekend breaks, on Saturday and Sunday, allow your normal cells to recover and assist your healing process.

Our radiation therapists will bring you from the waiting room, into the treatment room with the linear accelerator (radiation machine). The therapists will make you comfortable in the room and assist you in getting positioned on the treatment table.

The therapists will align the laser to the target on your skin, indicated by the “tattoo-like” markings. Alignment takes only a couple of minutes. The therapists will leave the room to deliver and monitor your treatment.

During the treatment the machine will move over your body. You won’t feel anything. It’s much like having an x-ray. Sometimes the specific area of skin receiving treatment, can get tender and sunburned, your healthcare team will want to know if you are experiencing any burning or discomfort during your treatment. Your healthcare team will guide you with proper care of your skin.

Typically the treatment takes about 10-15 minutes.

The most common side effect of radiation therapy is fatigue – it is very important to get plenty of rest and adequate nutrition. Generally, you will see your doctor weekly. We are always available if you need us.