Radiation therapy is treatment that uses high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells. Our radiation oncologists have years of experience safely and effectively treating cancer with radiation. Using the latest technology, we can precisely target tumors and minimize damage to nearby healthy tissue.
Types of radiation therapy
Our radiation oncologists deliver this type of radiation to the cancer using machines outside the body. The radiation machine moves around your body without touching you.
External radiation therapy does not cause pain, and you won’t feel anything during your treatments.
This therapy, also called external beam radiation (EBRT), does not make you radioactive. You can safely be around other people, including children.
External beam radiation is the most common approach to radiation treatment. It is produced by machines with various brand names including TrueBeam and CyberKnife. These machines move around the outside of your body, but they never touch you. You won’t feel anything.
Different ways that external radiation therapy can be delivered are:
3D (3-dimensional) conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT)
With this method, 3D images help the doctor better target the tumor or area where the tumor was. The images are created using a special machine — a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. The radiation beams can be aimed from many different angles to match the exact shape of the target.
Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
This method is similar to the first method, but the doctor can adjust how much radiation you get from each beam. In certain situations, this allows for better avoidance of nearby normal cells, and thus less potential side effects. Both this technique and the first are typically delivered using a linear accelerator (linac) such as the TrueBeam.
Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS)
A special form of external beam radiation therapy uses very focused, intense radiation doses given in one or a few treatments. At Stanford, stereotactic radiosurgery is typically delivered using the CyberKnife (CK) machine. Your doctor will choose whether this option is useful for your case.
Choosing the best treatment for you
It may take your care team up to 1 to 2 weeks to create your treatment plan. A medical dosimetrist will work with your doctor to build a multi-dimensional model of your cancer. With that, they will design a plan that targets the cancer and avoids nearby healthy tissues.
If your tumor is in the brain, your care team will make a mask that is customized to fit only you. The radiation therapist will place markers on the mask that are visible on an image called a CT or CAT scan. This ensures that you are in the same position for every treatment.
Published April 2018
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