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What is Radiation Therapy?
The use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. The most common method of treatment is external beam therapy. This type of treatment utilizes a machine outside your body which directs the radiation at the tumor site. The machine commonly used is called a linear accelerator. External beam therapy does not make you radioactive in any way and it does not hurt. Radiation cannot be seen, felt, or smelled.
What is the Goal of Radiation Therapy?
The goal of Radiation Therapy depends on your specific cancer diagnosis and your overall health. It is used to shrink tumors within the body and relieve symptoms. Radiation Therapy may be utilized in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy, or can simply be used as the only treatment needed. Treatment aimed at cure will give the highest possible dose of radiation to the cancer cells while limiting dose to surrounding healthy tissue. Sometimes smaller doses are used where the aim is to reduce the size of the tumor and/or relieve symptoms.
How Is Radiation Therapy Targeted?
Today’s advanced technologies combine radiation delivery with different types of imaging, which allows the physician overseeing the radiation therapy, the radiation oncologist, to see a picture of the area to be irradiated. This allows for a more precise targeting of tumors on a daily basis, resulting in a smaller area of healthy cells exposed to the radiation, which means fewer side effects. Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) provides a daily scan of the treatment area prior to the delivery of radiation. This promotes the alignment of anatomy to be accurately matched throughout the course of treatment. IGRT can also be used in conjunction with Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy.
Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) is a type of treatment that allows the beam to be conformed tightly around the tumor area. It uses multiple radiation beams to precisely irradiate the tumor. The intensity is controlled, and the beam shape changes throughout each treatment. This allows more healthy tissue to be spared in order to limit the side effects of the radiation.
What is a Radiation Therapy Session Like?
The Radiation Therapy team consists of a radiation oncologist (physician), radiation therapist (delivers the radiation therapy), physicist and dosimetrist (involved in planning radiation treatments) who work together to develop your treatment plan and dosage calculations. A Radiation Therapy nurse will also play a vital role during your treatment process to help manage side effects.
Prior to the beginning of radiation treatments, you will have a simulation session. During this procedure, devices may be fabricated to ensure replication of precise positioning. A CT scan will be performed for treatment planning purposes. Your skin will be marked to define your treatment fields. These marks will help your team to target your treatment on a daily basis.
Radiation Treatments are designed specifically to the individual and the particular cancer diagnosis involved. Most courses of treatment last from 2 to 10 weeks, depending upon the area involved, as well as the type and stage of the cancer at diagnosis. Visits usually last 15 to 30 minutes depending on the complexity of the radiation treatment. The radiation therapist will tell you how long each session will take upon your first treatment.
During your treatment you will lie down on a treatment table. The radiation therapist will monitor you during the treatments from an adjacent room. He/she will be able to see, hear, and talk to you during the treatment at all times. You may notice lights pointed at you. These are used to get you in the proper alignment for the radiation treatments.
Your team will make sure you understand everything that will happen before you go in for your first treatment and will work with you to ensure understanding of the treatment process. Your treatment times may be scheduled at your convenience if the schedule allows.
(Information taken from www.elekta.com/patients/radiation-therapy-teatment-process/ and The National Cancer Institute “What to Know about External Beam Radiation Therapy”)
Helpful link from American Cancer Society: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/radiation.html
Sophisticated Technology Enables Enhanced Cancer Treatment Accuracy
Clinch Valley Medical Center has taken cancer treatment to new levels with its purchase of Agility, next-generation technology that enables complex radiation therapy delivery with extreme accuracy.
Agility is a high-resolution external beam shaping solution developed by Elekta, a global leader in significant innovations and clinical solutions for treating cancer. This $1.1 million radiation oncology upgrade allows the Cancer Treatment Center clinicians to provide sophisticated cancer treatment solutions for our patients, with lower risk of side effects. This system is safe, reliable and accurate.
Agility supports Clinch Valley Medical Center's commitment to offer our patients high quality cancer treatment, keeping pace with rapidly accelerating advancements in disease understanding and technology.
For more information please call 276.596.6010.
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