Radiation Therapy

Using the power of a linear accelerator to customize your treatment

Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. At high doses, radiation therapy kills cancer cells or slows their growth by damaging their DNA. Cancer cells whose DNA is damaged beyond repair stop dividing or die. When the damaged cells die, they are broken down and removed by the body.

Radiation therapy does not kill cancer cells right away. It takes days or weeks of treatment before DNA is damaged enough for cancer cells to die. Then, cancer cells keep dying for weeks or months after radiation therapy ends.

Radiation Therapies at the Martin-O’Neil Cancer Center

A linear accelerator (LINAC) is the device most commonly used for delivering external radiation therapy. It uses a variety of methods to customize high energy x-rays to match an individual tumor’s shape so that radiation can be delivered as precisely as possible. This allows your doctor to more accurately target and destroy cancer cells while protecting surrounding healthy tissue, making cancer treatment more effective, with fewer side effects from damage to healthy tissue. The Martin-O’Neil Cancer Center uses a state-of-the art accelerator made by Varian.

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), is an advanced radiation therapy that uses 3D scans of your body along with precision computer guidance to “paint” the radiation beams to exactly match the size, shape and location of a tumor. Small beams are directed from multiple directions, with each producing customized beam intensity and shape that conforms the radiation field to the size and shape of the tumor. The responsive computer control adjusts the shape of the beam throughout the treatment to ensure precision delivery of the radiation. These adjustments ensure each part of the tumor receives the full dose of radiation, while minimizing exposure to surrounding healthy tissue.

Stereotatic Radiosurgery (SRS), is a type of external radiation therapy that uses special equipment to position the patient and precisely give a single large dose of radiation to a tumor. It is used to treat brain tumors and other brain disorders that cannot be treated by regular surgery. It is also being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. SRS is also called radiation surgery, radiosurgery and stereotaxic radiosurgery.

Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT), also called stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR), is a pinpoint-accurate radiation delivery system. The technology is designed to precisely target cancer tissue while minimizing exposure to healthy surrounding tissue.

Image Guided Radiotherapy (IGRT) insures pinpoint radiation delivery by combining a variety of high-resolution 2D, 3D and 4D imaging techniques with motion visualization software and automated beam repositioning. IGRT is frequently used for tumors and cancers located very close to sensitive organs and tumors that are more likely to be affected by movement.

The Martin-O’Neil Cancer Center offers treatment using the Calypso® System, known as GPS for the Body®, for prostate cancer treatment. Calypso reduces the tracking challenge with continuous, real-time tracking of the target area. The system uses harmless radiofrequency signals to continuously monitor the location of the tumor in relation to the radiation beam. Visual and auditory alerts tell the therapist if the tumor moves outside the radiation beam, allowing the therapist to stop the beam, make any necessary adjustments to the patient’s position and resume treatment.

An advanced form of IMRT, Volumetric Art Therapy (VMAT), or RapidArc Radiotherapy Technology, uses 3D scans of your body along with precision computer guidance to “paint” the radiation beams to exactly match the size, shape and location of the tumor. Small radiation beams are customized in intensity and shape to conform exactly to the tumor. The responsive computer control adjusts the shape of the beam throughout treatment to ensure precision delivery of the radiation treatment with beams that can be as narrow as the width of a pencil tip.

Brachytherapy treatment consists of introducing radiation directly with tiny implants, or “seeds,” for treating prostate cancer. Internal radiation therapy allows a higher dose of radiation in a smaller area in a single treatment instead of repeated visits for external beam therapy. At the same time, little radiation reaches nearby healthy tissue, reducing side effects dramatically.