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.
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 lung cancer
We offer two primary types of radiation therapy for lung cancer:
- External beam radiation therapy (EBRT): Delivers high doses of radiation to lung cancer cells from outside the body, using a variety of machine-based technologies.
- High dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy (Internal Radiation): Delivers high doses of radiation from implants placed close to, or inside, the tumor(s) in the body.
Amifostine is a drug we use at CTCA to protect against dry mouth and other common side effects of radiation therapy for lung cancer. When tumors lay close to the salivary glands or esophagus, as is often the case in lung cancer, radiation therapy may be absorbed by these healthy cells. Dry mouth, difficulty swallowing and lung inflammation may result.
Amifostine is a radio-protectant, which means it shields nearby healthy tissues from the damaging effects of radiation therapy while leaving cancer cells responsive to treatment.
Your CTCA care team may administer Amifostine just before your radiation treatment using a sub-cutaneous injection. This delivery method is typically better tolerated with fewer side effects, like nausea or vomiting.