What is radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy uses targeted energy (e.g., X-rays, radioactive substances) to destroy cancer cells, shrink tumors, and/or alleviate certain cancer-related symptoms. It may be used:
- As a primary treatment to destroy cancer cells
- In combination with other treatments to stop the growth of cancer cells
- Before another treatment to shrink a tumor
- After another treatment to stop the growth of any remaining cancer cells
- To relieve symptoms of advanced cancer
At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), our radiation oncologists are experienced in using advanced technologies to deliver targeted radiation therapy while also proactively managing side effects.
Q&A with Dr. Vashi
Types of radiation
Some radiation therapy delivery methods include:
- External beam radiation therapy – radiation is directed from a machine outside the body onto cancerous cells within the body. (Examples: 3D conformal radiation therapy, IMRT, IGRT, TomoTherapy, stereotactic radiosurgery)
- Internal radiation therapy – radioactive material is placed (via a catheter or other carrier) directly into or near a tumor. (Example: high-dose rate brachytherapy)
- Systemic radiation therapy – a radioactive substance (that is swallowed or injected) travels through the blood to locate and destroy cancerous cells. (Example: radioactive iodine therapy)
Experienced care team
Our radiation oncologists specialize in delivering maximum radiation doses to tumors with less damage to healthy tissues and organs. Our radiation oncologists will work closely with you and the rest of your care team to deliver radiation therapy based on your individual needs.
Individualized treatment approach
Radiation therapy is an important part of treatment for many of our patients. Since each cancer type requires a different approach, your treatment plan will be based on your unique needs and treatment goals.
Our radiation oncologists use advanced imaging techniques before and during radiation treatment so we can closely track the tumor. We use highly targeted radiation technologies to deliver maximum radiation doses to tumors, with less impact on healthy tissues and organs. Thereby, we can often provide options to patients who have reached their maximum tolerated dosage of traditional radiation.
Depending on your individual needs, you may receive radiation therapy alone or in combination with other treatment modalities like surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or immunotherapy. Throughout your treatment, your radiation oncologist will monitor the effectiveness of the radiation therapy and modify your treatment plan accordingly.
Managing radiation side effects
Typical radiation therapy can be damaging to the body and cause unpleasant side effects, such as skin changes, fatigue, nausea, and other side effects, depending on the part of your body being treated. During your radiation treatment, clinicians from a variety of integrative oncology services will work with you to reduce side effects and improve your quality of life.
Radiation therapy for leukemia
Radiation therapy for leukemia may be used to destroy leukemia cells, or to relieve pain or discomfort caused by an enlarged liver or spleen, or swollen lymph nodes. It can also help to treat pain from bone damage caused by leukemia cells growing in the bone marrow. Also, radiation therapy is sometimes given in low doses just before a stem cell transplant.
The area treated with radiation therapy and the dose given is based on your specific leukemia diagnosis, including the type of leukemia and your symptoms. Depending on your individual needs, your leukeumia radiation treatments may be combined with other therapies, like immunotherapy and chemotherapy, to prevent the growth of new cancer cells.
Helping you maintain your quality of life
The side effects of radiation therapy for leukemia depend on the treatment dose, the part of the body being radiated, the duration of radiation and other factors. Radiation may cause a drop in white blood cell count, which can increase your risk of infection. Some other potential side effects include fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite and skin irritation.
During your radiation treatment for leukemia, your doctors will monitor your blood counts regularly. If needed, we’ll provide therapies to stimulate your blood cell production and/or antibiotics to prevent or treat infection.
We’ll also work with you to manage any radiation-induced side effects. Your care team will provide integrative oncology services like nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine, pain management, oncology rehabilitation and mind-body medicine—all under one roof. These therapies can help to keep you strong so you can better tolerate treatment and maintain your quality of life.