About Radiation Oncology

What is a Radiation Oncologist?

Medical specialist who received post graduate training in the management of disease with the use of radiation therapy (also called Radiotherapy).

They work closely with Medical Oncologists, Surgeons and Palliative care physicians.

Evaluates the patient extensively to establish a treatment plan either alone or in combination with other therapy options.

Their main focus is determining the proper dosage of radiation for an individual patient and the manner in which it will be delivered.

What is Radiation Therapy?

Radiation Therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays (ionizing radiation) or other particles to kill cancer cells.

It is given as a main treatment, or in conjunction with other therapies to eliminate any potential remaining cancer cells. It also can be given to shrink tumors and reduce pressure which causes pain when the disease may not be able to be eliminated.

Types of Radiation Therapy:

  1. External-beam radiation therapy. This is the most common form of therapy, involving the delivery of radiation from a machine (“linear accelerator, or linac”) outside the body. It can treat large areas of the body, or directly target the tumor site using specific computer technology.
  2. Internal radiation therapy. Another name for this is “brachytherapy.” This procedure involves the implanting of radioactive material directly in the cancer itself. The implants can be either temporary or permanent.
  3. This treatment involves attaching radioactive molecules to manufactured proteins (monoclonal antibodies). These proteins attach to specific parts of cancer cells, delivering low-dose radiation to the cells without effecting healthy cells.
  4. Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT). Therapy that consists of millions of small glass microspheres (20 to 30 micrometers in diameter) containing radioactive Y-90. It is injected into the artery, delivering radiation via blood flow.

What to expect during your radiation treatment

After your initial exam and any necessary testing, your doctor will discuss your treatment plan along with desired benefits and potential risks with you.

The first treatment session will include the planning of the course and positioning of your body for the treatments you will receive. This is called “simulation.”

External beam radiation treatments are painless and quick, usually about 15 minutes.

Internal beam radiation may require brief hospital stays and anesthesia. There should be no real discomfort from the treatment.

Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

Overall radiation therapy is well tolerated with most people experiencing few if any side effects. However, high doses of radiation can effect healthy tissues and cause some side effects. Your doctor will discuss any side effects associated with the particular area being treated. Be sure to share with your care team any side effects experienced. Some common side effects include skin irritation such as dryness, peeling, or a sunburned feeling, and extreme fatigue or persistent tiredness. Most side effects can be effectively treated and are temporary in nature.