A non-invasive method for treating cancer
Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, uses radiation to safely and effectively kill cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue. 60% of all cancer patients require radiation therapy at some point in their disease. The Maimonides Cancer Center’s radiation therapy unit is recognized as one of the safest and most accurate units in the country, with ultramodern technology that pinpoints tumors, ensures the highest chance of obtaining remission or cure, and minimizes the risk of side effects.
Your radiation oncologist will work with the rest of the radiation therapy team to determine which radiotherapy techniques are right for you, based on tumor type, location, and size. Then they will develop your treatment plan, oversee each treatment, and monitor your progress.
External beam radiation
External beam radiation, as painless as an x-ray, uses a beam or beams of radiation to destroy tumors and their nearby cells. It involves a series of daily outpatient treatments that last for several weeks.
Types of external beam therapy
Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT)
3D-CRT uses sophisticated computers and CT or MRI scans to create detailed, 3D representations of the tumor and surrounding organs. This allows your radiation oncologist to shape radiation beams to the size and shape of your tumor and direct them precisely, sparing healthy tissue.
Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
IMRT, a specialized form of 3D-CRT, further enhances radiation precision, often allowing the delivery of a higher and more effective dose, while limiting exposure of healthy tissues.
Electron beam therapy
Electron beam therapy is a less penetrating radiation that spares underlying tissues. It is best for patients whose cancers are near their skin’s surface, or for thick tumors in the skin.
Superficial x-rays treat tumors that arise on the skin and are detected before they can become very thick. They cure certain skin cancers with almost no effect on underlying tissues.
Neutron beam therapy
Neutron beam therapy targets certain tumors that are resistant to conventional radiation therapy, or that are inoperable.
Stereotactic radiotherapy uses very small beams of radiation to destroy certain types of small tumors more precisely and quickly than other techniques. It also treats malformations in brain blood vessels and certain noncancerous brain tumors.
Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT)
IGRT uses imaging technologies such as PET, MRI, or CT scans to more accurately and safely deliver radiation to cancer cells. Doctors use it to treat tumors in areas of the body that move, such as the lungs.
Also called internal radiation, brachytherapy uses special applicators to implant radioactive “capsules” in or close to a tumor, allowing a large dose to target cancer cells with less exposure to healthy tissue. Brachytherapy may require anesthesia and brief hospitalization.
High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU)
High-intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU is an image-guided procedure that uses energy from high-frequency sound waves to destroy cancer cells within the prostate. These sound waves are targeted directly on the cancerous tumor cells while preserving and maintaining the function of the neighboring healthy cells.
Maimonides is the first hospital on the East Coast to offer the next generation of HIFU as a treatment for prostate cancer
Managing radiation side effects
Patients experience few or no side effects from radiation therapy and can continue their normal routines, including working full time. The most common side effect is fatigue, although it is usually not severe. Other side effects usually pertain to the area being treated. Irradiated skin, for example, may feel sunburnt, while radiation of the throat may cause soreness during swallowing. Such side effects are usually temporary and treatable.
Caring for yourself before, during, and after radiation therapy
When undergoing radiation therapy, it is important to:
- Eat a balanced, nutritious diet
- Get plenty of rest
- Seek emotional support
- Treat irradiated skin with extra care