Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) is a cancer treatment that uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation has the ability to kill cancer cells as well as regular cells, so the goal of this therapy is to maximize the radiation dose to the cancer cells and minimize the dose to the healthy cells. Radiation therapy also can be used to reduce symptoms from cancer.
Traditionally, radiation therapy has been given over a long period of time in small doses. This process lacked some accuracy. Recent developments in radiation therapy allow us to moderate critical dosages to healthy areas and increase doses to cancer cells.
There are two main types of radiation, external beam and internal. The type of radiation therapy that you may have depends on many factors, including:
External beam radiation therapy, as its name suggests, has a radiation source from outside the body. It comes from a machine that aims radiation at the cancer. The machine does not touch you, but can move around you, sending radiation to a part of your body from many directions. This type of radiation treats a specific part of the body.
There are many types of external beam radiation therapy, all of which share the goal of delivering the highest prescribed dose of radiation to the tumor while sparing the normal tissue around it. Each type relies on a computer to analyze images of the tumor in order to calculate the most precise dose and treatment path possible.
Types of external beam radiation therapy include:
Summa Health’s newest external beam radiosurgery system is the Varian Edge that offers a new line of defense in the fight against cancer. It may be used to treat tumors found in the lung, prostate, brain, spine and other areas that are typically difficult to reach with traditional surgery.
Using advanced cancer treatment technology, the Edge system offers patients a fast, effective option for treating tumors without incisions or the need for overnight hospital stays. The Edge system works by delivering large, targeted doses of radiation to obliterate cancer cells. To accurately deliver the recommended amount of radiation, the beam treats each part of the tumor from many different angles.
Using precise beam sculpting and a real-time tracking system, clinicians are able to deliver high radiation doses to destroy the tumor while minimizing exposure to surrounding healthy tissue.
Normally an outpatient procedure, Edge treatments are typically completed within the same week taking only one to five sessions. Each session lasts less than an hour, which helps patients quickly get in and out of treatment, reducing the number of treatment appointments and allowing them to resume their lives.
Internal radiation therapy is a treatment in which a source of radiation is put inside your body. The radiation source can be solid or liquid.
One example of a solid source is called brachytherapy. In this type of treatment, seeds, ribbons or capsules that contain a radiation source are placed in your body, in or near the tumor. Brachytherapy also is a local treatment.
Internal radiation therapy of a liquid source is called systemic therapy. Systemic means that the treatment travels in the blood to tissues throughout your body, seeking out and killing cancer cells.
If you have any questions about the treatment options listed, please reach out to the Cancer Institute at 330.375.7280.