West Cancer Center’s Radiation Oncology Department is comprised of highly trained Radiation Oncologists, Radiation Therapists, and medical physicists, along with a support team to manage and minimize treatment side effects. Our team’s goal is to use advanced therapies to deliver effective and safe radiation therapy to our cancer patients.
What is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy is the use of various forms of radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer and other diseases. Radiation therapy works by damaging the genetic material within cancer cells. Once this happens, the cancer cells are not able to grow and spread. When these damaged cancer cells die, the body naturally removes them. Normal cells are also affected by radiation, but they are able to repair themselves in a way that cancer cells cannot. Your radiation oncologists will develop a plan to deliver the radiation to the tumor area, shielding as much surrounding normal tissue as possible. Your radiation oncologist may recommend using radiation therapy in a number of different ways.
What Radiation Treatments are Available at West Cancer Center?
GYN HIGH-DOSE BRACHYTHERAPY
Brachytherapy is a critical component in the treatment of cervical and endometrial cancers. Brachytherapy is a type of radiation therapy where a radioactive source is placed close to the tumor or area of interest. Because of a woman’s anatomy, there is a unique opportunity to use this type of treatment. This opportunity allows us to deliver a high dose of radiation to the tumor or area of interest while minimizing radiation dose to normal tissues. This treatment opportunity translates into great success in the treatments of cervical and endometrial cancers. There are two different types of brachytherapy, low dose rate(LDR) and high dose rate(HDR). These treatments differ in the amount of time required to deliver the desired dose to the tumor or area of interest. High dose rate(HDR) brachytherapy has been the preferred form of brachytherapy in the setting of endometrial cancer for some time. For cervical cancers, HDR brachytherapy has become the preferred form of brachytherapy since it does not require hospitalization, limits radiation exposure to hospital personnel, and has similar outcomes when compared to low dose rate brachytherapy.
INTENSITY-MODULATED RADIATION THERAPY
Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is an advanced mode of high-precision radiotherapy that uses computer-controlled linear accelerators to deliver precise radiation doses to a malignant tumor or specific areas within the tumor. IMRT allows for the radiation dose to conform more precisely to the three-dimensional (3-D) shape of the tumor by modulating—or controlling—the intensity of the radiation beam in multiple small volumes. IMRT also allows higher radiation doses to be focused to regions within the tumor while minimizing the dose to surrounding normal critical structures. Treatment is carefully planned by using 3-D computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance (MRI) images of the patient in conjunction with computerized dose calculations to determine the dose intensity pattern that will best conform to the tumor shape. Typically, combinations of multiple intensity-modulated fields coming from different beam directions produce a custom tailored radiation dose that maximizes tumor dose while also minimizing the dose to adjacent normal tissues.
Because the ratio of normal tissue dose to tumor dose is reduced to a minimum with the IMRT approach, higher and more effective radiation doses can safely be delivered to tumors with fewer side effects compared with conventional radiotherapy techniques. IMRT also has the potential to reduce treatment toxicity, even when doses are not increased. Due to its complexity, IMRT does require slightly longer daily treatment times and additional planning and safety checks before the patient can start the treatment than conventional radiotherapy.
EYE PLAQUE BRACHYTHERAPY
Plaque brachytherapy is the most widely used treatment for choroidal melanoma and delivers a highly concentrated radiation dose to the tumor (with relatively less radiation to surrounding healthy tissues). The radioactive plaque can also be called a “radiation implant” or “radioactive source.” Plaque brachytherapy is typically used in one definitive treatment. The radiation sources used for brachytherapy come in the form of small “rice-sized” radioactive seeds. These seeds are attached within a gold or steel bowl called a plaque. The dose of radiation delivered to the tumor is determined by the type, number and strength of the seeds used and length of time of the implant. The dose will also depend on the size of the tumor and its location.
PARTIAL BREAST HIGH-DOSE BRACHYTHERAPY
HDR Brachytherapy is a targeted treatment that uses a high-dose of radiation directed right at the area where the cancer cells may remain. The therapy is delivered from inside the body and limits the radiation exposure to normal, healthy tissue. Using HDR Brachytherapy will lessen the side effects of radiation such as skin discoloration, scarring, burning, fatigue and damage to surrounding organs or tissue. After a lumpectomy, radiation therapy is often used to eliminate any remaining cancer cells. The goal is to keep the cells from replicating and coming back.
High Dose Rate Brachytherapy uses a high-energy source of radiation directed to the area where the cancer was removed. The source of energy disrupts the growth of the cancerous cells. Unlike healthy cells, cancer cells cannot repair themselves, making them vulnerable to radiation therapy.
PROSTATE LOW-DOSE RATE BRACHYTHERAPY
Low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy is a type of internal radiation therapy that delivers a high dose of radiation at a low-dose rate from implants placed permanently in the organ. Because the prostate gland is located close to the bladder and rectum, it is important for radiation treatment to be tightly focused on the prostate to avoid serious side effects. LDR brachytherapy offers a fast, more precise way to administer prostate cancer radiation therapy for some patients. LDR brachytherapy is applicable to virtually all stages of localized prostate cancer. In many cases, brachytherapy may be an alternative to surgical removal of the prostate.
STEREOTACTIC BODY RADIATION THERAPY
A stereotactic radiation treatment for the body means that a specially designed coordinate-system is used for the exact localization of the tumors in the body in order to treat it with limited but highly precise treatment fields. SBRT involves the delivery of a single high dose radiation treatment or a few fractionated radiation treatments. A high potent biological dose of radiation is delivered to the tumor, improving the cure rates for the tumor, in a manner previously not achievable by standard conventional radiation therapy.
Patient Support Services
Every person’s body responds to radiation therapy in its own way. You may have no side effects, or only a few mild ones. Others may have more serious side effects that our team can support and help manage. Side effects usually depend on the dose and the part of your body being treated. some side effects may include hair loss, dry mouth, skin reactions, sore throat, nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue.
We know that cancer care is much more than clinical treatment. If you need support managing these side effects, we are here. As our patient, you have access to comprehensive and individualized wellness and support resources from diagnosis through survivorship.
If you would like to receive radiation therapy support, please talk with your provider during your next visit or contact [email protected]
Radiation Oncology Research Programs
West Cancer Center’s Older Adult Radiation Oncology Research Program and Clinic will work to improve the care of our senior adult patients through three initiatives:
- Screening Geriatric Assessments
- Counseling on Best Treatment
- Clinical Research
The body’s immune system is a collection of specialized cells, organs, and substances designed to combat disease, like cancer. By developing a variety of treatments, immunotherapy’s objective is to either identify and attack specific cancer cells or boost the immune system. The challenge is to “unmask” these cells that hide in the body as harmless cells.