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Types of cancer radiation treatment

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Leading radiation oncology providers offer these types of radiation through the HonorHealth Virginia G. Piper Cancer Care Network:

Brachytherapy

It involves placing radiation sources inside and next to a cancer tumor. These radiation sources usually are tiny pellets the size of pencil leads. The pellets also could be placed inside an area that may contain cancer cells that remain after surgery to remove a tumor.

Leading HonorHealth radiation oncology providers offer high-dose-rate brachytherapy as a treatment option for patients with sarcoma or breast, cervical, endometrial or lung cancer.

This advanced technique allows high-dose radiation to be administered internally within a cavity or tissue in the body versus treatment with an external beam. A radioactive seed placed in or near the tumor allows:

  • Delivery of radiation in a precise, three-dimensional manner while reducing the radiation exposure in surrounding healthy tissue.
  • Shorter total treatment times.
  • Minimal side effects.

Brachytherapy for breast cancer

Breast brachytherapy is a five-day radiation therapy alternative for women with early-stage breast cancer. The preferred treatment for this stage is usually lumpectomy — surgical removal of the cancerous lump — followed by radiation therapy to the breast. Radiation therapy can eliminate the invisibly small deposits of cancer that can remain in the breast after lumpectomy.

While traditional external beam radiation therapy is safe and effective, it can take four to six weeks of daily treatment. Breast brachytherapy is an accelerated, five-day treatment for selected patients with early-stage breast cancer. This technique treats a much smaller volume of breast and other tissue and avoids treating the breast skin with radiation.

Intensity-modulated radiation therapy

Advances in radiation therapy techniques are constantly evolving. Leading HonorHealth Virginia G. Piper Cancer Care Network radiation oncology providers offer the most advanced treatments for your cancer, including intensity-modulated radiation therapy.

This specialized form of radiation therapy allows the radiation to conform closely to the 3D shape of your tumor. A form of external-beam radiation therapy, intensity-modulated radiation therapy beams can be broken up into many "beamlets." The intensity of each beamlet can be adjusted individually; this allows for a higher dose of radiation to the tumor with potentially less exposure to surrounding healthy tissue.

Volumetric arc therapy is an advanced form of radiotherapy that treats your entire tumor with pinpoint accuracy and is easier and more convenient — you don't have to hold still for long periods of time.

Radiation is shaped and reshaped as it's delivered continuously from virtually every angle in a 360-degree revolution around you. As a result, higher doses of radiation are delivered to your tumor with more intensity while exposure to surrounding healthy tissue is reduced.

A typical volumetric arc therapy treatment can be completed in less than two minutes. That means you can be in and out of treatment quickly and return to your normal routine.

Image-guided radiotherapy

Image-guided radiotherapy is similar to intensity-modulated radiation therapy, but goes a step further by using digital imaging techniques. They track the exact position of your tumor before each radiation treatment.

This technique can be helpful because some tumors are not stationary and tend to shift between radiation appointments. Image-guided radiotherapy allows doses with a higher concentration of radiation to be administered. Why? Because the beams can conform more precisely to the three-dimensional shape of the tumor.

The equipment takes images of the tumor just before or even during the time radiation is delivered while you're on the treatment table. These images are compared to the ones taken during simulation, using specialized computer software. The radiologist makes any necessary adjustments to your position and/or to the radiation beams to target radiation at the tumor more precisely.

Because this method is so precise, the surrounding healthy tissue is not as affected by the radiation, reducing side effects. Because of image-guided radiotherapy’s advanced motion management technique, you can breathe normally during radiation treatments. Therefore, image-guided radiotherapy is used to treat tumors in areas of the body prone to movement, such as the lungs (affected by breathing), liver and prostate, as well tumors located close to critical organs and tissues.

Radiosurgery

A non-invasive treatment, radiosurgery is incision-free. Radiosurgery can be performed completely outside the body without ever touching the skin and:

  • Can treat and sometimes eliminate many kinds of cancers.
  • Reduces or eliminates the need for a surgeon to operate.
  • Uses highly accurate, targeted radiation in large doses. This destroys a tumor with minimal exposure to surrounding healthy tissue.
  • Can target a tumor with incredible precision — to less than a millimeter — from virtually any direction. This is possible thanks to sophisticated computer software that guides hundreds of radiation beams to the target tumor.

Some of the newest technology available with HonorHealth radiation oncology providers is so precise it lets you receive treatment in as little as 10 minutes. Because it involves no tissue cutting, treatment is usually performed on an outpatient basis.