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Radiation Therapy Treatments

External Beam Radiation Therapy

Using a state-of-the-art linear accelerator, the Varian 21EX with 120 multileaf collimator delivers a precise radiation beam and is capable of conforming to any tumor or shape using intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)

If the targeted area is in a deep-seated part of the body, an unusual shape or close to certain sensitive structures—such as the brain, spinal cord, or kidneys—you may be treated with conformal therapy or IMRT. This allows the radiation oncologist to treat tumors that are unusually shaped or near sensitive structures, with precision. Special imaging studies, such as CAT scans, PET scans or MRI scans, may be required to ensure the highest accuracy of treatment. Because conformal therapy or IMRT is so complex, daily treatment sessions may take longer, typically lasting 20-30 minutes.

IMRT uses a system of shields with sophisticated dose calculation methods to send literally thousands of tiny beams, coming from many different angles, to target the area to be irradiated. The precision of IMRT makes it useful in treating small, fairly stationary targets that are very close to critical structures or are surrounded by a large volume of normal tissue. Types of tumors that may be treated with IMRT include brain, prostate, spinal cord or tumors very close to radiosensitive tissues such as the optic nerve. Many targets are too large to be treated with IMRT, such as breast, or too mobile, such as lungs.

Electron Beam for Skin Cancer

At St. Jude Medical Center, we have a multidisciplinary approach to skin cancer. There are several types of skin cancer and your oncologist and dermatologist will review your case carefully and give recommendations.

Electron Beam Therapy is a form of external beam radiation and yields excellent tumor control and cosmesis. This a very good alternative to surgery in sensitive areas such as the face where surgery might result in less than optimal cosmetic results such as scarring.

Respiratory Gating for Lung Cancer

Our multidisciplinary lung cancer tumor board brings together various specialists reviewing your case and recommends the best course of treatment. Your oncologist will review your unique case carefully and give recommendations.

Along with traditional radiation therapy using the external beam therapy, we employ a respiratory gating technique in the CT simulator for 3D planning process in order to factor in the patient’s breathing motion. This assists the physicians and technologists to ensure coverage of the tumor for treatment on a daily basis, while minimizing dose to normal lung tissue.

Radioactive Implants (Brachytherapy)

In addition to external radiation, we offer several types of internal radiation, also called brachytherapy or implants. Internal radiation may be given as the only radiation treatment or in conjunction with external beam radiation. Some implants require hospitalization while others are performed on an outpatient basis.

If brachytherapy will be part of your treatment, your radiation oncologist will describe the procedure in detail during your initial consultation. The radiation oncology nurse will also meet with you to give you verbal and written instructions regarding how to prepare for the procedure, precautions to take, where to report, and after-care at home.

High Dose Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy

Unlike external beam radiation therapy, High Dose Rate (HDR) brachytherapy therapy, delivers a high dose of radiation precisely to the tumor site through catheters.

Women with gynecological tumors may receive HDR Brachytherapy in addition to external beam radiation. This is done as an outpatient, and women typically return to their daily routine after the treatment. The Radiation Oncologist will discuss the procedure at the time of consultation.

Some men benefit from having high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy to the prostate. This involves having catheters placed into the prostate and introducing a radioactive source into the catheter to ‘dwell’ in preprogrammed locations within the prostate. This procedure requires an overnight stay for three total treatments. Not all patients qualify for this procedure. The physician will offer this procedure if he/she feels this is an option.

Permanent Implants

Permanent implants are brachytherapy treatments that involve permanently implanting radioactive materials within the tumor to provide very localized radiation. Placement of radioactive seeds is usually performed in the operating room under local or general anesthesia. This is usually an outpatient procedure, and you will be discharged home on the same day. The seeds emit low-dose radiation as they decay and become inactive. This has become one of the standards to treat prostate cancer.

Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation

Partial breast radiation can be delivered using either the SAVI, Contura or Mammosite devices. Radiation is delivered from inside the breast directly to the tissue where cancer is the most likely to recur. This treatment can be completed in as little as five days, allowing you to get back to your life.

Radiation is delivered from inside the breast directly to the area where cancer is most likely to recur.

This limits the amount of radiation to healthy tissue, thereby reducing the potential for side effects.

The therapy can be completed in as little as five days.

Clinical studies of patients treated with breast brachytherapy have demonstrated low local recurrence rate and an excellent cosmetic outcome. The most recently published study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute cited a local recurrence rate of 1.0% at five-year follow-up. This rate was similar to that seen in a group of patients treated with external beam radiation.

This treatment is not for all women diagnosed with breast cancer. With the help of your physician, an appropriate course of treatment will be offered.