About Radiation Therapy
The type of radiation and the length of treatment vary according to the type of tumor, location of the cancer, your overall health and the stage of your disease.
Overlake Radiation Oncology has state-of-the art equipment, such as dual energy linear accelerators with electron beam capabilities, providing you with the most recent advances in radiation therapy.
One of the most common treatments in cancer, radiation therapy is used in more than half of all cancer cases. It is the primary treatment for many kinds of cancer and, for many patients, the only treatment needed beyond surgery.
Radiation is a beam of electromagnetic energy that is directed at the affected tissue, causing damage to the chromosomes of the cancer cells. When the cancer cells are damaged, they are not able to divide and grow. Radiation is often used in combination with other treatments like chemotherapy and surgery. Depending on the type of tumor and the location, radiation may be used as the primary, secondary or supplementary method of treatment. Since radiation stops cancer from growing, it may also be used to relieve pain and other symptoms, or to reduce the size of a tumor before surgery.
With external radiation therapy, a high-energy beam is directed at the cancer. The treatment is painless. Patients usually receive treatment five days a week for four to seven weeks. For most patients, this is done on an outpatient basis. If you receive external radiation therapy, you are not radioactive during or after your treatment. Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) is an external beam type of radiation therapy that delivers a very high dose of radiation in a single or very few treatment session(s).
With a radiation implant, a higher dose of radiation puts the cancer-killing rays as close as possible to the tumor, or the "well" where the tumor was removed. A small quantity of radioactive material is placed near or directly into the cancer. Some implants may require an overnight stay, while others can be performed in an outpatient setting requiring no hospital stay. For implants requiring overnight stays, you will be admitted to the Lang Oncology Unit's specially shielded rooms. Some radioactive material may transmit rays into the area around you, so visits and contacts are limited during treatment. Once the implant is removed, no radioactive material remains and there is no danger to you or visitors. A different type of radioactive source may be used for implants, on an outpatient basis. These sources have much shorter half-lives and do not emit rays to others. If implants are recommended, the physician will walk you through the options and post-treatment considerations. Implants are used for very specific cancer sites and staging.
Radiation Therapy Side Effects
Depending on the area being treated with radiation therapy, you can have side effects that, though unpleasant, are not permanent. The most common are:
- Unusual tiredness.
- Skin reactions (such as rash or red areas).
- Hair loss.
- A decrease in the number of white blood cells.
Read about coping with common treatment side effects.