What is radiation oncology and how does it work?

Cancer is a disease that causes normal cells in the body to grow out of control. Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying and growing. Radiation is generated by specialized equipment or by radioactive sources implanted inside the patient.

Radiation therapy is painless, and you do not feel anything while the treatments are given. It can be used alone in the fight against cancer or in conjunction with surgery and/or chemotherapy.

What to Expect

On the day of your first treatment, you will be positioned using your immobilization device on the treatment table. The Tomotherapy machine will then take a CT scan of the treatment region using its high-energy beam, and the images will be superimposed on your simulation CT scan. If these two sets of images do not exactly superimpose, the Tomotherapy machine will adjust the treatment table or its programmed plan to deliver your treatment as close as possible to the planned treatment.

The actual treatment may take five to fifteen minutes to complete. You will not feel anything during the treatment, and you will not see any movement of the machine, which is shaped like a large CT scanner. During the treatment, the high-energy Linear Accelerator within the machine will be rotating in a pattern of a CT scan and will be continuously changing to shape itself to your anatomy. This process will be repeated for every one of your treatments to assure the greatest precision and accuracy. Your radiation therapists lead this process.

Our technologies and treatments

Radiation Linear Accelerator and CT-simulator – The high-precision TrueBeam medical linear accelerator (LINAC) customizes high energy x-rays or electrons to conform to a tumor's shape and destroy cancer cells while sparing surrounding normal tissue. It features several built-in safety measures to ensure that it will deliver the dose as prescribed and is routinely checked by a medical physicist.

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) - Intensity-modulated radiotherapy uses linear accelerators to safely deliver precise radiation to a tumor while minimizing the dose to surrounding normal tissue.

Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) - Image-guided radiation therapy is the use of imaging during radiation therapy to improve the precision and accuracy of treatment delivery. It is used to treat tumors in areas of the body that move, such as the lungs. 

Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) and Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) - Stereotactic radiosurgery is a non-surgical radiation therapy used to treat functional abnormalities and small tumors of the brain. It can deliver precisely-targeted radiation in fewer high-dose treatments than traditional therapy, which can help preserve healthy tissue. When SRS is used to treat body tumors, it's called stereotactic body radiotherapy.

Radiation FAQs

Q. Will I lose my hair?
A. You will only lose your hair if we are treating in the head region.

Q. Is it safe to be around other people while receiving radiation treatments?
A. Yes. While receiving external radiation treatments, you are not at risk of endangering others.

Q. How long will my treatment session last?
A. Each treatment session will last between 15 and 20 minutes.

Q. Do I have to come every day?
A. Yes. Treatments are given Monday through Friday.

Q. How tired will I be?
A. Fatigue is a side effect of radiation, but most people are able to continue with their daily activities.

Q. What are some of the other common side effects to radiation treatment?
A. Since radiation treatment is localized to the area of your body with the tumor, your side effects generally are limited to that area as well. Your skin might be red, irritated or swollen at the treatment site. Please talk to your doctor about the side effects you might experience based on the location of your tumor.

Q. Can I drive myself?
A. Most patients are able to drive themselves to treatment, but check with your physician to make sure it is safe for your particular case.

Q. Does radiation therapy hurt?
A. No. Radiation therapy is much like receiving an X-ray. You will not feel anything while receiving treatment.

Q. Will I have to wait long before getting an appointment to see the doctor?
A. No. Most new patients are able to schedule an appointment within one week of calling.

Q. What happens after my radiation treatment is finished?
A. Every patient’s treatment plan is unique. Talk to your doctor to find out what your next steps will be. Remember, you are not alone in this fight. We are always here for you after treatment.