What is Radiation Therapy?

Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, uses high-energy X-rays or other waves to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy sessions are painless, brief (about 15 minutes) and highly effective.

When Is Radiation Therapy Used?

Doctors often recommend radiation therapy if the cancer is confined to specific areas of the body. You may also receive radiotherapy before surgery to shrink a tumor or after surgery to kill any remaining cells. 

Radiotherapy can also control pain and other symptoms of terminal cancers. This is called palliative radiation therapy.

Your AnMed team will determine if radiation therapy is appropriate for you and help you understand how it benefits you.

Cancers Treated with Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy can treat many types of cancer. Learn more about the use of radiation therapy for:

Types of Radiation Therapy

AnMed radiation oncologists use Varian’s TrueBeamSTx™ system, which helps make your treatment faster and more precise. That means you can spend less time getting care and more time on the things that are important to you.

Explore other technologies and techniques at AnMed.

Linear Accelerator (LINAC)

A linear accelerator delivers external beam radiation therapy by targeting cancer tumors with extreme accuracy. This helps radiation oncologists treat cancers of the brain, spine, head and neck, breast, lung, esophagus, stomach, prostate, bladder and bones.

Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)

IMRT is a type of external beam radiation therapy that delivers high-dose radiation to tumors with great accuracy while minimizing radiation to healthy tissues.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

A CT scan generates cross-sectional images of bone and soft tissues that will be used to create your treatment plan. The Radiation Oncology department at AnMed has a light-speed CT scanner with a wide opening for your comfort and convenience. 

Electron Beam Therapy (EBT) for Skin Cancer

EBT most often treats skin cancer. During EBT, a thin electron beam targets cancer cells while sparing healthy tissues, so you have fewer side effects. 

Prostate Brachytherapy

Prostate brachytherapy is a type of radiation therapy used to treat early-stage prostate cancer. During this procedure, radioactive seeds are implanted in the prostate gland to kill the cancer cells.

High Dose Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy

During HDR brachytherapy, small radioactive pellets are placed in or near a tumor for a short period of time (up to 20 minutes). This treatment option is available for lung and gynecologic cancer patients.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)

SRS uses high doses of radiation to treat brain tumors. An MRI shows the area to target in just one treatment.

Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT)

SBRT uses high doses of radiation to treat tumors in the lungs, spine, liver, neck and other soft tissues. These treatments are typically delivered in one to five visits.

Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH)

This technique protects the heart when treating left-sided breast cancer. The machine delivers radiation when you hold your breath to pull your breast away from your heart. 

Radiation Therapy Side Effects

Radiation therapy targets only the part of your body with cancer, but it can also affect healthy cells and tissues near a tumor. This damage often leads to side effects such as fatigue and skin changes like dryness, itching, blistering and peeling. Radiation therapy for the head or neck may cause dry mouth and difficulty swallowing. 

Your cancer team will discuss side effects before beginning your treatment and offer ways to relieve them, so you feel more comfortable. 

What to Expect from Radiation Treatment

At AnMed, we know any cancer treatment can be scary. Before, during and after your radiation treatments, the caring staff at AnMed Cancer Center will guide you with education, compassion and answers to all your questions.

  • Preparing for Radiation

    You’ll meet with a radiation oncologist who will perform a medical exam, review prior test results and discuss treatment options. If radiation is right for you, we’ll do a simulation—a practice run to plan for treatment. The radiation therapist will position you on the CT imaging machine and mark your skin with temporary paint or tiny permanent tattoos. These marks show where to aim the radiation beam. Since precision is critical, we may also fit you with a device like a head mask or mold to keep your body in the same place during each treatment.

  • During Treatment

    In external beam radiation therapy, a machine delivers the radiation from outside your body. The sessions are painless and typically last 15 minutes. Most patients have five treatment sessions per week for two to six weeks.

    Internal radiation therapy, or brachytherapy, involves placing radioactive pellets inside the body. For gynecological brachytherapy, the pellets are in place for several minutes. Prostate seed implants remain in the body and decay over time. You may receive anesthesia to prevent pain during the implantation process.

Contact the AnMed Cancer Center

For more information, call the Cancer Center at 864-512-4600.