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Radiation Oncology

Radiation oncologists use radiation to treat cancer, and work as part of a multidisciplinary team with other physicians and health professionals to provide individualized care to each patient. Radiation oncologists may treat cancers in any part of the body including, but not limited to, the bones, brain, breasts, cervix, colon, lungs, and prostate.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation Therapy is one of the most common cancer treatment options; more than half of all patients with cancer will receive some type of radiation therapy. It uses precise and targeted radiation to kill cancer cells, while leaving healthy tissue as untouched as possible. Radiation therapy is delivered through a team approach, which includes a radiation oncologist, radiation physicist, dosimetrist, and radiation therapist.

Common Types of Radiation Therapy

External Beam Therapy

External Beam Therapy uses high-energy x-ray beams generated by a linear accelerator. The radiation beams can be customized to target tumors of different shapes and sizes with the highest radiation dose, while sparing the surrounding organs and tissues. Common types of external beam therapy include Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) and Image-guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT). There are three parts to external beam therapy:

  1. Simulation or Visualization, in which high quality images of the tumor are obtained so the radiation oncologist knows the exact size, shape, and location of the tumor.
  2. Planning, in which the Radiation Oncologist works together with the rest of the team to develop a specific treatment plan for the patient. The treatment plan includes the dosage, where the radiation is to be delivered and on what schedule.
  3. Treatment, in which the patient undergoes the treatment plan developed by the team. Treatments may be modified over the course of the treatment plan if necessary.

Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy is a type of internal radiation therapy that places radioactive “seeds” in or near the tumor. Each seed is about the size of a grain of rice, and can be placed in the body temporarily for a few minutes or hours, or permanently. Brachytherapy delivers high doses of radiation directly to the tumor, which reduces overall treatment time, while minimizing radiation to surrounding organs and tissues.

Developed by the American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), RadiologyInfo.org provides more information about radiology tests, treatments and patient safety.