Advanced Radiation Oncology Options for Cancer Treatment
Radiation oncology (radiation therapy) is the use of high-energy X-rays, electrons, or other sources of radiation treatment to treat diseases—usually cancer. It can also be used to treat non-cancerous conditions, including blocked coronary arteries.
Scripps radiation oncologists perform procedures that precisely and effectively target cancer tumor sites, while preserving as much nearby healthy tissue and organs as possible. This is critical in radiation treatment to the prostate, which is very near sensitive tissue.
External and internal methods
Radiation therapy can be administered externally (using machines to direct radiation from the environment into the body) or internally (placing radioactive sources directly into body tissues or cavities, either temporarily or permanently).
Regardless of the radiation’s source, X-rays or radioactive protons damage (or kill) rapidly dividing cancer cells so they can’t grow, multiply or spread.
Although radiation therapy is commonly used as the primary technique for the treatment of cancers, it can also be used in combination with other treatment options, including surgery and chemotherapy.
Radiation treatment can also be used palliatively—to help improve quality of life by relieving pain or other symptoms.
Services offered in a multidisciplinary setting
Because each patient’s tumor is unique, and may respond differently to the treatments available, Scripps radiation oncologists offer a wide range of radiation therapy options.
Scripps radiation oncologists typically work as part of a concerted, multidisciplinary cancer care team, which may include a medical oncologist, surgeon, oncology nurses and other specialized support staff.
Treatment planning and simulation
A course of radiation therapy treatment typically begins with a treatment planning phase. To be most effective and safe, radiation must be aimed very precisely at the prostate each time a treatment is given. The tissue target must receive as much of the radiation dose as possible, while healthy tissue nearby should be preserved.
The planning stage involves key steps to map and mobilize the treatment area. The planning or simulation phase may include:
- Mapping the treatment area using computer-aided imaging techniques such as CT and MRI scans
- Preparing mobilization devices, such as plastic or mesh molds
- Placement of fiducial markers (gold seeds) in the case of prostate cancer, for precise targeting
“External beam” radiation treatments use machines to direct radiation from an external source into the body. Internal methods of radiation delivery is also an option.
Total Body Irradiation
Total body irradiation is used to treat a patient’s entire body at once. It is an essential component of bone marrow or stem cell transplant for leukemias, as well as some lymphomas.