Radiation therapy is one of the most common treatments for cancer and, according to the American Cancer Society, is used in more than half of all cancer cases. With radiation therapy, high-energy x-rays are used to damage cancer cells and stop them from growing and dividing. Radiation therapy affects cancer cells only in the treated area and is sometimes used in combination with other cancer treatments, including surgery and/or chemotherapy. The decision about which treatment(s) to use is individually based on each patient's situation.
The centerpiece of Samaritan's Radiation Therapy Department is the Varian Medical Systems' Clinac iX IMRT/IGRT Ready Linear Accelerator, which combines two advanced cancer treatment technologies on a single machine – Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) and Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT). IMRT uses radiation beams that are aimed from different angles to attack a tumor in a three dimensional manner. With this precision, higher doses of radiation can be delivered directly to the cancer cells, sparing the surrounding healthy tissue.
Tumors, however, are not stationary, unchanging targets. Weight fluctuations, normal breathing, or even moving the patient on and off the treatment table will change a tumor's locale by several centimeters. Radiation oncologists have traditionally compensated for tumor movement by enlarging treatment areas, which exposes more healthy tissue to the effects of radiation.
Now, when IMRT is coupled with IGRT, physicians can utilize images taken just before treatment to pinpoint any changes in the location of the tumor. IGRT takes an already precise treatment like IMRT and makes it even more accurate.
• IGRT offers new hope to patients with difficult to treat tumors, such as those next to a vital organ.
• IGRT has the potential to substantially improve treatment outcomes by delivering more powerful radiation doses directly to the cancerous tumor.
• IGRT helps limit the amount of radiation delivered to healthy tissue around the tumor.
• IGRT can reduce side effects and improve the quality of life for patients.
While no patient's experience is exactly like another's, below is a general idea of what you will experience when you seek treatment through the Walker Cancer Treatment Center at Samaritan Medical Center. Your first appointment is a consultation visit with the radiation oncologist, a physician who has special training in using radiation to treat diseases. At this visit, the doctor will review your medical records, examine you and discuss treatment options, including risks and benefits of therapy.
When radiation therapy is selected as the course of treatment, the next step is called simulation. During simulation, your radiation oncologist and radiation therapist will perform the necessary tests that will allow them to shape the radiation beam to your body and to the size and shape of your tumor. This customized shaping helps protect the surrounding healthy tissue. Following simulation, you will be scheduled for your radiation treatments. Generally, treatments last from 10 to 20 minutes and are given daily, Monday through Friday. Patients are usually treated for an average of 5 to 8 weeks. Radiation treatments are painless.
You will not feel anything while you are being treated. Some patients experience side effects from radiation therapy, depending on the area of the body that is being treated. We have effective treatments for most side effects and many patients are able to continue their routine daily activities.
Dr. Daniel DeBlasio is Samaritan's Radiation Oncologist and a member of the multi-disciplinary team that oversees cancer services at Samaritan.
For more information about Radiation Therapy, IMRT/IGRT or other cancer treatment services, please call the Walker Cancer Treatment Center - 315-785-4600 or use our Contact Us form.