Unlike most community hospitals, ThedaCare Cancer Care offers four different types of radiation treatment. Specialists at ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center use this highly valuable process to improve the health of patients so that they can have the best outcome possible.
What Is Radiation?
Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays or radioactive materials to destroy cancer cells while preserving the healthy tissue around the affected area. Specific amounts of radiation are directed at a tumor or cancerous tissue to stop the cancer cells from growing and dividing.
Types of Radiation Therapy
The specific type and location of your cancer, as well as the stage and size, determine the type of radiation therapy you’ll receive. These are the main treatment types we offer:
External Beam Radiotherapy
The most common form of radiation therapy, this treatment uses high-energy x-rays generated through a beam by a special machine called a linear accelerator. High doses of radiation are directed at cancer cells through the beam to destroy them or prevent them from growing.
Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT)
A special type of external beam radiation, this treatment conforms to the shape of the tumor and delivers selective beams of radiation, minimizing the impact on non-cancerous areas. It’s administered through the TrueBeam® linear accelerator system, a cutting-edge radiation tool that gives IMRT treatments with three-dimensional image guidance.
Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)
Performed with the revolutionary CyberKnife® S7 Robotic or TrueBeam® Radiotherapy System, this treatment delivers very finely focused beams of high-dose radiation to destroy a tumor. It is painless and completely non-invasive—the treatment involves no incisions. The technology continuously moves to deliver accurate and precise radiation to specific areas of the body, reaching tumors that may otherwise be considered inoperable.
This type of radiation therapy uses radioactive sources that are temporarily implanted in the body by inserting thin tubes or catheters into the body. A source of radiation is then passed down the tubes into the body for several minutes to destroy cancer cells. The source of radiation is then removed, so no radiation is left in your body. Because the radiation is put directly within or near the tumor, the healthy tissue nearby gets a smaller dose of radiation. This method of brachytherapy delivery is referred to as high-dose rate brachytherapy and is most commonly used to treat diagnoses such as prostate, breast and gynecologic cancers.
What to Expect During Treatment
Before you begin treatment, you’ll meet with your radiation oncologist, a doctor who specializes in radiation therapy. Together, you’ll discuss the best radiation treatment for your cancer. You’ll then be scheduled for a simulation, which will “simulate” how you’ll be positioned and where the radiation will be delivered. This is done using a CT scanner, which is a large x-ray machine.
The radiation therapy team will use computer software to create a customized treatment plan for your body and cancer. This includes mapping out the exact location where the radiation needs to be directed and where it should be avoided. This process can take up to two weeks before you return to start your first radiation therapy treatment.
Treatments are painless—they’re similar to what it’s like to have an x-ray taken. You’ll lie down on a table while the machine providing your treatment administers the radiation. The machine will be controlled by your radiation therapist from an area outside the treatment room. He or she will still be able to see, hear and talk to you throughout the process.
It’s important to remain still while having radiation treatment to avoid damaging healthy tissue around the cancerous area. The procedure can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, and usually occurs daily. You may need to receive treatment for a week, a month, or more—it all depends on you, your cancer, and how it’s responding.
While radiation is painless, it can still have side effects. These typically vary based on the area being treated. Common side effects may include:
- Mouth and throat irritation
- Hair loss and scalp irritation
- Painful swallowing
- Skin irritation
Throughout treatment, you and your doctor will discuss any issues you may be having. He or she will provide information and tips to help you cope. You can also talk with your radiation nurse, who will be happy to assist you with any concerns.