Radiation oncologists use a range of radiation therapies to destroy cancer cells and spare healthy tissue. Your cancer care team will work with you to choose the right treatment method based on your cancer type and health situation. Here are some of the radiation therapy options available.
External Beam Therapy
A beam or beams of high-energy X-rays generated by a linear accelerator are delivered to the tumor, killing the cancer cells while sparing the surrounding normal tissue. Medical images, including x-ray, MRI, CT and PET, are used to design your care plan. A variety of technologies shape the treatment beam, enabling a higher-energy dose to be safely delivered.
- 3D conformal therapy – Delivers a radiation dose that is shaped to conform to the tumor and avoid healthy tissue.
- Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) – Provides precise targeting with frequent imaging when the tumor is likely to move (lung or prostate) or is near critical organs.
- Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) – Delivers radiation in hundreds of segments, focusing specifically on the shape of the tumor.
- Tomotherapy – Used to target the radiation dose across a tumor in carefully delivered “slices.”
- Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) – Delivers radiation in a 360-degree rotation around the patient.
Proton Beam Radiation Therapy
Proton therapy provides the radiation oncologist with the ability to increase the intensity of the radiation delivered to the tumor while decreasing the amount of radiation healthy tissue receives by energizing the protons in three dimensions using a cyclotron.
Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)
High-energy radiation beams replace scalpels in SRS, used to treat small brain tumors that can’t be removed with surgery or that require extreme precision. When used to treat body tumors in the lung, liver, prostate and spine, SRS is called stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT). SRS and SBRT machines use robotics and stabilizing devices to prevent patient movement and ensure precise targeting.
For some cancers, the best treatment is to place the radiation source in or near the tumor, called brachytherapy. A radioactive source is placed in a very small container, or implant, and delivered using a catheter or other device.
Intraoperative Radiotherapy (IORT)
Some patients with bile duct, breast, colorectal, ovarian, pancreatic and spinal cancer can receive a concentrated dose of radiation to the surgical site after a tumor has been removed. This may prevent the inconvenience of returning for radiation therapy treatments following surgery.