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Radiation therapy for spinal cancer

radiation therapy

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

Video: Radiation Therapy

Learn about radiation therapy

Spinal cancer radiation therapies

Radiation therapy for spinal cancer

We use highly targeted delivery systems that allow us to increase the dose and precision of radiation to a spinal tumor, while minimizing damage to healthy tissue.

Spinal cancer radiation therapy is commonly used following surgical resection of a tumor, to destroy any microscopic tumor cells left behind. It may also be an option for metastatic spinal tumors (tumors that have spread to the spine from another part of the body).

The specifics of your radiation regime will be based on several factors, including the type and size of the spinal tumor and the extent of disease. External radiation therapy is commonly used for spinal cancer. The area radiated typically includes the tumor and an area surrounding the tumor. For metastatic spinal tumors, radiation is sometimes given to the entire spine.

Addressing spinal cancer radiation therapy side effects

Depending on your radiation dose, site and other factors, you may experience some side effects of radiation therapy, including fatigue, hair loss, skin irritation and nerve damage.

To minimize the side effects of radiation and help you maintain your strength and quality of life, your care team at CTCA will proactively work with you to develop effective solutions based on your needs. For example, we may prescribe steroids to help reduce swelling, or blood thinners to dissolve blood clots and prevent them from traveling into the lungs.

You’ll also receive integrative oncology services like nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine, pain management, oncology rehabilitation and mind-body medicine. These therapies help to keep you strong so you can continue treatment while maintaining your quality of life.

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