At your first visit, you will meet with one of our radiation oncologists and our oncology nurse to discuss your medical history, review any pertinent radiology images, and undergo a physical examination. Your doctor will explain your options and take time to answer questions. We encourage our patients to active partners in their health care and place great importance on patient education, which allows informed decision making, enabling us to provide the highest level of care for you.
What is Radiation Oncology?
"Radiation Oncology", also called "Radiation Therapy” or “Radiotherapy," uses high energy radiation to treat cancers and occasionally non-cancerous (benign) conditions. Radiation in most instances is an x-ray. X-rays penetrate beneath the surface of the body and have the ability to kill abnormal tissue.
How is Radiation Delivered?
Radiation can be given in one of two ways. The most common technique called "External Beam Radiation" uses a beam that is shined on the patient from the outside, much like a flashlight beam. Radiation beams are invisible and painless. Using modem techniques, we are able to shape the beams to contour around various structures in the body while including others. This translates into safer, taster, more effective treatment for our patients with less side effects. Conventional treatment is commonly given 5 days a week, Monday through Friday and your appointment is usually 15 minutes long.
Another way to treat cancer called "brachytherapy" uses radiation sources (small pieces of radioactive metal) that are inserted into the body at areas containing cancerous tumors.
This can be done in several ways and many different type of cancers are amenable to brachytherapy including prostate cancer, gynecologic cancers, sarcomas, head and neck cancer and lung cancer.
In one commonly used method called high dose rate brachytherapy (HDR), plastic tubes are placed in the body and radioactive wires are introduced under remote control. In some instances, HDR treatments have been shown to protect bowel function and yield higher cure rates, Our physicians and physicists are leaders in this technology and have contributed to the development and expansion of this technique in the United States and in Europe.
What is the Treatment Process?
Once you have consulted with one of our doctors and a treatment plan has been made, 2 steps will need to be completed before you can start treatment:
Our CT Simulator
Before treatment can be started, patients must go through a planning session called "Simulation" to prepare them for treatment. Simulation entails the use of a CT scan to take 3D images of the patient in the required treatment position. An immobilization device may also be made at this time as well as measurements and tattoo markings on the skin all to ensure our patients are in the same reproducible position at the time of their actual treatment. This process takes approximately 1-2 hours to complete and you will be given your treatment schedule before you leave this appointment.
The patient's information collected at the time of simulation goes to our team of physicists and medical dosimetrists who work in conjunction with our radiation oncologists to calculate and design a treatment plan. Hours of "behind the scenes" work goes into designing a radiation treatment plan. Unless you are having treatment on the same day as your simulation, you do not have to be present during this step. Because no two bodies are alike, every treatment plan is custom designed for each patient. Every week, our doctors meet to review all new cases and discuss any technical or clinical challenges that may arise, assuring each patient is receiving the highest level of care possible.
Finally, the patient is ready to start their treatment.