UnityPoint Health | Radiation Therapy

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Radiation Therapy

Heidrich Radiation Oncology Center at Methodist has the most up to date radiation treatment techniques available. We have the ability to treat multiple different malignant and non-malignant conditions. We have several treatment options that allow patients to have the best outcome with least possible side effects.

What is Radiation Therapy?

Radiation therapy is the use of various forms of radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer. It works by damaging the genetic material within cancer cells, making cancer cells unable to grow and spread. When these damaged cancer cells die, the body naturally removes them. Normal cells are also affected by radiation, but they are able to repair themselves in a way that cancer cells cannot. Your radiation oncologist will develop a plan to deliver the radiation to the tumor area, shielding as much surrounding normal tissue as possible. Radiation can be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy and/or surgery. Radiation can also be used as a supportive measure to alleviate pain, pressure, or bleeding that can be caused from the cancer.

External Beam Radiation

External Beam Therapy (EBT), also called external radiation therapy, is a method for delivering a beam or several beams of high-energy x-rays to a patient's tumor. Beams are generated outside the patient, usually by a machine called a linear accelerator, and are targeted at the tumor site. These high-energy x-rays can deposit their dose to the area of the tumor to destroy the cancer cells and, with careful treatment planning, spare the surrounding normal tissues.

Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy

Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) is an advanced mode of high-precision radiotherapy that uses computer-controlled linear accelerators to deliver precise radiation doses to a malignant tumor or specific areas within the tumor. IMRT allows for the radiation dose to conform more precisely to the shape of the tumor by controlling the intensity of the radiation beam in multiple small volumes. This helps to avoid or reduce exposure of healthy tissue and limits the side effects of treatment.

Rapid Arc Therapy

Rapid Arc Therapy uses computer-generated images to plan and deliver the radiation dose. In a single 360-degree rotation, a linear accelerator (treatment machine) rotates around the patient, delivering a sculpted, tightly-focused beam of radiation in less than two minutes. During treatment, the beam is continually shaped and modulated to conform to the shape of the tumor. This results in better tumor targeting and less damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT)

Image Guided Radiotherapy (IGRT) provides high-resolution, two or three-dimensional images to pinpoint tumor sites, adjust patient positioning and complete a treatment. The goal of the IGRT process is to improve the accuracy of the radiation field placement, and to reduce the exposure of healthy tissue during treatments. IGRT is ideal for tumors and cancers located very close to sensitive structures and organs, and for tumors that are likely to move during treatment or between treatments.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery/Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy

Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) and Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) is a non-surgical procedure used to deliver precisely-targeted radiation in fewer high-dose treatments than traditional external beam therapy, which can help preserve healthy tissue. The radiation beams are as small and precise as a scalpel. This is done on an outpatient basis and is usually completed in one to five treatments. The goal of SRS and/or SBRT is to deliver the highest possible dose to kill the cancer while minimizing exposure to healthy organs.

High-Dose Rate Brachytherapy

High-Dose Rate (HDR) brachytherapy is a type of internal radiation therapy that allows a physician to use a higher total dose of radiation to treat a smaller area and in a shorter time than is possible with external beam radiation treatment. The radiation is delivered from implants placed close to, or inside, the tumor(s) in the body. Since cancer often affects surrounding anatomy, it is important for radiation treatments to be tightly focused on tumors to minimize serious side effects. This technique ensures the maximum radiation dose is given to cancerous tissues, while minimizing exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue.

Respiratory Gating

When treating certain areas in the body, such as the lungs, tumors can move as the patient breathes during treatment. Before the advancement of respiratory therapy, the tumor movement had disabled the doctor's ability to precisely map the tumor location while sparing healthy tissue. By using respiratory gating during treatment, it eliminates the need to apply radiation with such a large margin, instead focusing radiation on the tumor, and sparing more healthy tissue. We are now able to treat at any point in the breathing cycle to keep the tumor in the same position for the entire treatment process.

Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation

Accelerated partial breast irradiation is treatment designed to focus radiation specifically on the part of the breast where the tumor was removed.

Breast Brachytherapy

Breast brachytherapy involves placing a flexible catheter, or a balloon, directly into the cavity where the lump was taken out. This balloon stays in place the entire length of treatment. A small, radioactive seed is guided into the catheter, or balloon, and is left in place for several minutes based on the treatment plan designed by the radiation oncologist. The procedure is repeated twice daily for a period of five days, then the catheter or balloon is removed and the treatment is finished.