Nationally, half of all patients receive radiation therapy for at least part of their cancer treatment, which may also include surgery and/or chemotherapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells by damaging their DNA, which causes the cells to die. The advances in this field of cancer treatment over the last few decades have been nothing short of amazing.
Our Technology Hits the Mark
One of the biggest challenges patients face is that radiation therapy can damage normal cells as well as cancer cells. So the treatment must be very carefully planned to minimize this damage. Our superstars for radiation therapy are the Varian TrueBeam™ and the Varian TrueBeam™ XTS. Representing the next generation of radiation therapy, these linear accelerators are so exact, they are able to target a tumor to within less than a millimeter — the size of a few grains of table salt.
Specialties: Cancer Care / Breast Health /
HealthConnection Episodes: Cancer
To Dr. Smith, patients aren’t numbers; they are individuals with lives separate from their cancer treatments. That’s why he carefully explains complicated medical procedures and answers questions about their radiation therapy. Providing patients with treatment options and letting them choose what’s best for them creates a collaborative and personalized care plan.
Other Members of the Radiation Therapy Team
Lewis Smith, M.D.
Xiaoning Pan, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology Medical Physicist
William (Michael) Bradley, M.S.
Instructor of Radiation Oncology
Bonnie Burgett, C.M.D.
David Jones, C.M.D.
Lori Robertson, R.T.(R)(T)
Kevin Kennedy, R.T.(T)
Meredith Wauqua, R.N., B.S.N., O.C.N.
Cody Boyd, R.T.(R)(T)
Administrative Director of Oncology Services
Radiation Therapy Planning
Once a plan to treat a patient’s cancer with radiation therapy has been decided on by the patient and his or her physicians, the very precise planning begins to target the cancer using our state-of-the-art Eclipse™ treatment planning system. Team members including a radiation oncologist, radiation therapists, dosimetrists, and physicists work together to insure the radiation treatment plan is as effective as possible.
Then we take it another step forward with our Acuity™ Planning, Simulation, and Verification System, which allows us to simulate the treatment plan and verify its accuracy. Only then does the patient receive radiation therapy.
What to Expect
To help our patients relax during radiation, our treatment machines, called TrueBeam™, have iPod connections that play music inside the room. The treatment takes about 10 minutes, and patients don’t see or feel anything. The process is similar to having a routine x-ray. Patients lay still and breathe normally, unless otherwise directed. The TrueBeam™ is fairly large and rotates around the patient, delivering the radiation. Patients should be able to continue with normal activities and drive to the daily treatment appointments.
The Course of Treatment
The physician determines the specific number of treatments patients receive based on the type of cancer, where it’s located, and what other treatments are planned. Radiation therapy treatment is different for each patient. For most patients, treatment is five days a week — Monday through Friday — at the same time every day for five to six weeks. Weekends provide a rest period that helps normal cells recover between radiation treatments.
Every week during treatment, patients visit with their physician and primary nurse. This team monitors the patient’s progress, helps manage side effects, and addresses any treatment concerns. This is called an on treatment visit (OTV) and occurs on a specific day of the week. We are always here for our patients and we encourage them to let us know how we can help.
Staying on Schedule
To get the best results from radiation therapy, patients should not skip treatment sessions. The dose of radiation is cumulative, which means that each continuous dose builds on the previous one. The total dose of radiation that is received over a certain timeframe makes a difference in how patients respond to treatment. It’s important that treatment is uninterrupted unless otherwise medically indicated. Schedules may be changed to accommodate for holidays and unexpected events.
Reactions to Treatment
Side effects from radiation therapy depend in part of the area of the body being treated. Common side effects to radiation therapy in general can include skin changes, tiredness, diarrhea, hair loss, nausea and vomiting. The physician will discuss possible reactions with the patient and provide contact information for follow-up concerns or questions.
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