What Are the Types of Radiation Therapy?

Posted on March 2, 2014 in Radiation Therapy

Written by Dr. Thakkar

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Radiation Oncology Overview

Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, refers to the treatment of tumors using beams of high-dose radiation to kill or retard the growth of cancerous cells. Radiation therapy may cure patients with certain types of cancer, particularly in cases where the cancer has stayed in a localized area of the body and not spread to other organs. Radiotherapy is also commonly used to prevent tumors from regrowing after they have been surgically removed, and in conjunction with chemotherapy to provide a multifaceted attack on malignant cells.

Ionizing radiation is used to combat cancerous tumors because it damages the DNA of malignant cells—this mortally wounds the cells and prevents them from healing or reproducing. Since radiation also damages normal, healthy cells, the different types of radiation therapy have been designed to precisely target tumor areas and to minimize radiation exposure to other tissue in the body.

SERO doctors have specialized in all types of radiation therapy and received extensive training on specific technologies and techniques. Thanks to the versatility and effectiveness of ionizing radiation in treating cancer, many different types of radiation therapy have been developed over the last sixty years, including several over the last decade. Newer therapies utilize advances in technology—particularly in the fields of medical robotics and 3-D imaging—to deliver radiation with extreme precision.

Patients may undergo one type of radiation therapy or a combination of different types of radiation therapy, depending type of cancer and the size and location of tumors.

External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT)

External Beam Radiation is a catchall term for many types of radiation therapy.  It works by delivering a beam from a machine which is located outside the body and does not touch the body during any part of the procedure. EBRT is painless and is similar to having an X-Ray taken.

Learn more about External Beam Radiation Therapy.

Stereotactic Radiotherapy (SRS)

Stereotactic radiotherapy or SRS is a type of External Beam Radiation Therapy. The technique is used to focus a high-dose beam of radiation that is designed to treat smaller tumors in the brain and other organs, including the lung, spine, liver, kidney, and bone.
SRS may help spare normal tissues better than conventional EBRT thanks to the extreme precision of the radiation delivery.

SERO offers this specialized treatment at several of its centers including Carolinas Medical Center Charlotte and Northeast, Presbyterian Hospital, Caromont Regional Medical Center, Rock Hill Radiation Therapy Center, and Frye Regional Medical Center. Our group of physicians was one of the earliest adopters of this technology, leading to a unique expertise and experience given the highly specific training of many of our physicians.

Learn more about Sterotactic Radiotherapy.

Brachytherapy Treatments

While EBRT and SRS utilize advanced robotics to deliver high doses of radiation into the body from an external machine, Brachytherapy, also called internal radiation or seed implants, works from inside the body.

During Brachytherapy, you doctor will implant small sources of radioactivity, also called seeds, very close to a tumor. Depending on the specifics of the patient’s conditions, these seeds may be removed after a certain period of time or may be permanent implants. Because the radiation sources are placed so close to the tumor, your doctors can deliver a large dose of radiation directly to the cancer cells with minimal exposure to normal tissue.

Brachytherapy is divided into two primary types: intracavity treatment and interstitial treatment. With intracavity treatment, the radioactive sources are put into a space near where the tumor is located, such as the cervix, the vagina or the windpipe. With interstitial treatment, the radioactive sources are put directly into the tissues, such as the prostate.

Anesthesia and brief hospitalization may be required during brachytherapy treatment.

Learn more about Brachytherapy.