Radiation therapy is a critical tool for treating cancer. It can also be a valuable option for palliative care to reduce pain and improve quality of life. At Dignity Health – Cancer Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, we use precisely focused, high-energy beams of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
Radiation Oncologists Who Put You in the Center of Therapy
Radiation therapy can destroy tumors and/or prevent them from returning. For some cancers, radiation can be uses as an alternative to surgery for patients who are unable to undergo surgery. Sometimes radiation is used before surgery to shrink a tumor or given after surgery to destroy the remaining cells. In people with advanced cancer, radiation may be used to reduce suffering caused by the disease. The radiation bean is adjusted to each patient’s tumor and body to more accurately direct the treatment and spare healthy tissue.
We’re not here to tell patients what to do. We’re here to give them the greatest range of options to help them choose and receive the best treatment plan for their cancer.”Shyamal Patel, MD
“I asked Dr. Thawani what would happen to the cancer, and she said, ‘The cells die.’”
Types of Radiation Therapy
Our doctors deliver radiation therapy in a variety of forms depending on the type of cancer, the location of the tumor and the cancer stage. Radiation treatments include the following:
Brachytherapy is the placement of the radiation source inside your body. There are two types: High Dose Radiation (HDR) and Low Dose Radiation (LDR). Radiation oncologists implant radioactive seeds or wires into the cancerous area to treat many cancers, including prostate, breast, head and neck, anal and rectal, biliary, cervical, skin, esophagus and bronchus.
External beam radiation therapy
External beam radiation therapy is the most common form of radiation treatment. It uses a machine to direct radiation at a specific part of your body. It can be offered in hypo fractionated courses (fewer treatments if applicable for the patient’s anatomy and cancer type) with breath holding and respiratory motion management. The following types are available at Dignity Health – Cancer Institute at St. Joseph’s:
- Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy: helps your doctor visualize the tumor with CT or MRI scans and then shapes multiple beams of radiation to fit the tumor’s size and shape. It is used to treat many different types of cancer.
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy: uses 3-D CT images to determine the tumor’s shape and focuses high radiation doses on the tumor. It is used to treat prostate cancer and head and neck cancers.
- Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT): images the tumor during treatment and continuously adjusts the radiation beams so that a higher dose of radiation can be more precisely delivered to the tumor. Doctors at Dignity Health – Cancer Institute at St. Joseph’s deliver IGRT using Varian Trilogy system to treat prostate cancer, breast cancer, head and neck cancers, brain cancers, and sarcomas.
Specialized radiation treatments
Radiation oncologists use the following procedures to tailor treatment to particular cancers:
- Respiratory gating: synchronizes radiation therapy with a patient’s breathing. The radiation beams turn on and off to deliver radiation only during certain points in a patient’s respiration cycle. This better spares healthy tissue while treating lung, liver or breast cancers.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery: delivers a single, high dose of radiation using Cyberknife and the TrueBeam system, which reduces treatment time and minimizes damage to healthy tissue.
- Stereotactic body radiation therapy: can accurately target small, well-defined tumors, such as in the lung or prostate. Treatment is usually over three to five sessions.
Unsealed sources such as:
- Radioactive iodine therapy (I131)
- Radium (223) for bone metastases
- Lu-177/ (Lutetium) also referred to as Lutathera™ for neuroendocrine tumors
At the Dignity Health – Cancer Institute at St. Joseph’s, we take a multidisciplinary team approach that includes radiation medicine experts. The radiation oncologists focus on radiation treatment options, while other specialists focus on other aspects of your care. Our doctors provide leading-edge radiation therapies that are unique and may not be available at other centers in our community. Above all, we focus on a precision approach and compassionate care for each patient.