Radiation Oncology at NHRMC

NHRMC Zimmer Cancer Center Renovation

The renovations are designed to improve access to comprehensive cancer services including those from your radiation oncology providers. MEET THE TEAM

Radiation oncology is one of the therapies used to kill cancer cells by precisely targeting them with high-energy X-rays. It is an important cancer treatment, and you may have it alone or in combination with other treatments.

Radiation oncology is one of the tools along with surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and immunotherapy, that oncologists use to treat cancer. Radiation therapy can be used by itself (definitive); used to shrink a tumor before surgery (neoadjuvant), or given after surgery to prevent a tumor's regrowth (adjuvant). Sometimes radiation therapy and chemotherapy are combined (chemoradiation). In more advanced stages of cancer, radiation may be used to reverse symptoms caused by the disease.

Radiation oncology may be use for:

  • Prostate cancer treatment
  • Breast cancer treatment
  • Bone cancer treatment
  • Lung cancer treatment
  • Skin cancer treatment
  • Head and neck cancer treatment
  • Brain and spinal cord cancer treatment
  • Stomach cancer treatment
  • Pancreatic cancer treatment
  • Rectal cancer treatment
  • Bladder cancer treatment 
  • Cervical cancer treatment
  • Endometrial cancer treatment
  • Anal canal cancer treatment
  • Lymphoma treatment
  • And more

Radiation therapy is also used for some benign (non-cancer) conditions.

Your Radiation Therapy Care Plan

Radiation therapy is administered by a Radiation Oncologist, a board-certified/eligible oncologist who has extensive specialized training in the use of radiation therapy for the treatment of cancer. A radiation oncologist will consult with you and your other physicians to determine whether radiation oncology is right for you.

If it is determined that radiation is the appropriate treatment for your cancer, your radiation oncologist will lead a team of healthcare providers in the development of a customized care plan for you. Because every patient and every cancer are different, your radiation will be specifically prescribed depending upon your individual circumstances. Your radiation oncologist will oversee the planning and delivery of your radiation, communicate with your other oncologists (if you are seeing any) and primary care provider, and meet with you regularly for an “on treatment visit” to answer any questions you may have and assure that everything is going as planned.

How Often You Have Radiation Therapy Treatments

Radiation oncology schedules vary widely depending upon the site of your cancer and the type of radiation being delivered. Your radiation oncologist will discuss your treatment schedule with you at the time of consultation. Some radiation therapy schedules involve daily treatment over weeks, while some schedules involve only a single treatment. Each treatment may last only minutes.

Radiation Oncology Treatment Types

Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)

Intensity modulated radiation therapy, or IMRT, is a specialized form of 3D-CRT that allows radiation to be more exactly shaped to fit the tumor. With IMRT, the radiation beam can be broken up into many “beamlets,” and the intensity of each beamlet can be adjusted individually. Using IMRT, it may be possible to further limit the amount of radiation that is received by healthy tissue near the tumor. In some situations, this may also allow a higher dose of radiation to be delivered to the tumor, potentially increasing the chance of a cure.

Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy is radiation treatment that is given inside the patient, as close to the cancer as possible. The radiation is delivered to the body site with radioactive isotopes inside wires, seeds, or rods. These devices are called implants.

Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT)

Radiation oncologists use image guided radiation therapy, or IGRT, to help better deliver the radiation to the cancer since tumors can move between treatments due to differences in organ filling or movements while breathing.

IGRT involves conformal radiation treatment guided by imaging, such as CT, ultrasound or X-rays, taken in the treatment room just before the patient is given the radiation treatment. All patients first undergo a CT scan as part of the planning process. The imaging information from the CT scan is then transmitted to a computer in the treatment room to allow doctors to compare the earlier image with the images taken just before treatment.

During IGRT, doctors compare these images to see if the treatment needs to be adjusted. This allows doctors to better target the cancer while avoiding nearby healthy tissue. In some cases, doctors will implant a tiny marker in or near the tumor to pinpoint it for IGRT.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) and Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT)

Stereotactic radiotherapy is a technique that allows your radiation oncologist to precisely focus beams of radiation to destroy certain types of tumors.

Since the beam is so precise, your radiation oncologist may be able to spare more healthy tissue. This additional precision is achieved by using a very secure immobilization, such as a head frame used in the treatment of brain tumors. Stereotactic radiotherapy is frequently given in a single dose (sometimes called radiosurgery) although certain situations may require more than one dose.
In addition to treating some cancers, radiosurgery can also be used to treat malformations in the brain’s blood vessels and certain noncancerous (benign) neurologic conditions.

Sometimes a high dose of stereotactic radiotherapy can be focused upon a tumor outside the brain and given in a few treatments (typically three to eight). This form of treatment is called stereotactic body radiation therapy.

Three-Dimensional Conformal Radiation Therapy (3D-CRT)

Tumors are not regular — they come in different shapes and sizes. Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy, or 3D-CRT, uses computers and special imaging techniques to show the size, shape and location of the tumor. Computer assisted tomography (CT or CAT scans), magnetic resonance imaging (MR or MRI scans) and/or positron emission tomography (PET scans) are used to create detailed, three-dimensional representations of the tumor and surrounding organs. Your radiation oncologist can then precisely tailor the radiation beams to the size and shape of your tumor. Because the radiation beams are very precisely directed, nearby normal tissue receives less radiation and is able to heal quickly.