Every day, new, innovative technologies are developed that are changing our everyday lives. The newest smartphones, self-driving cars, and personal virtual reality are just a few. These advances in technology are not confined to the consumer world, but define our current cancer care landscape.
Radiation therapy technology in cancer care is continually advancing to provide more precise and personalized treatment grows. Radiation therapy is one of the most common and effective treatments available for many types of cancer because it directly targets a tumor to destroy cancerous cells. And, these advanced, highly effective technologies are available in your own community.
“Texas Oncology patients can take comfort in knowing that they are receiving the highest quality of care with the most current techniques and technologies right in their own communities,” said Dr. Rogelio Salinas, a radiation oncologist who specializes in therapeutic radiology at Texas Oncology–McAllen.
Radiation therapy is delivered by radiation oncologists, like Dr. Salinas, along with a team of specialists.
Preparing for Radiation Therapy
Before a patient ever receives a radiation treatment, a customized treatment plan is developed based on the patient’s specific diagnosis. The first step in the process is simulation and involves consultation with a physician and radiation therapy team. The team specifically plans every part of your treatment, including the correct body position for treatment, taking an imaging scan, making reference marks for the positions on the skin, and virtual simulation. In a simulation, the patient is immobilized (if needed) in their treatment position and a CT scan performed. The CT images are used to reconstruct a virtual image of the patient within the planning computer, allowing visualization of the tumor. These images create an outline of a tumor and other structures within the patient that allow oncologists to better treat and target a tumor.
“Every aspect of our patient’s cancer journey is personalized,” said Dr. Salinas. “No single cancer treatment is right for everyone, so Texas Oncology creates an evidence-based plan specific to our patient’s needs.”
Internal vs. External Radiation
About half of all cancer patients undergo radiation therapy as a part of their treatment. This treatment can be performed independently or in conjunction with other treatments, such as chemotherapy and/or surgery. Radiation can be delivered in two different ways to patients – externally or internally.
External radiation therapy is the most common type of radiation therapy used for cancer treatment. It focuses high-energy X-rays or electron beams to specific points of the body where the tumor is located to destroy the cancer cells. External radiation therapy can be delivered through a variety of technologies, including:
- 3D Conformal Radiation Therapy, a therapy that targets radiation to the exact shape of the tumor while minimizing effects to nearby organs and tissues;
- Image-Guided Radiation Therapies, a technology that increases the accuracy of the radiation delivery;
- Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy, a technology that allows for accurate delivery of stronger doses of radiation to different areas of the tumor;
- Stereotactic Radiosurgery, a technology that uses a computer-guided therapy system to treat tumors and other abnormalities of the brain;
- Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy, a therapy used to treat malignant or benign small to medium size tumors in critical areas of the body other that the brain, such as the lung or spine;
- Proton Beam Radiation Therapy, an advanced type of radiation therapy aimed at destroying cancerous cells using proton beams.
Internal radiation therapy requires that a low-energy radioactive implant is placed inside the body in or near the tumor. Depending on the patient’s specific cancer and treatment plan, the patient might receive a temporary or a permanent implant. The implant becomes inert over time. Internal radiation therapy, also known as brachytherapy, includes two primary types:
- Low-dose rate brachytherapy, which inserts radioactive materials into body tissue near the tumor to deliver low dose radiation in a permanent or temporary application
- High-dose rate brachytherapy, which inserts radioactive material close to the tumor, allowing for a high dose of radiation to be delivered precisely to the tumor.
Internal radiation therapy is often used to treat breast cancer, gynecologic cancer, prostate cancer or skin cancer.
Advances in Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy continues to prove essential to the advancement of cancer treatment as a whole. Texas Oncology is on the forefront of that advancement, offering the country’s most innovative radiation clinical trials. In affiliation with US Oncology Research and as a leader in the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group®, Texas Oncology offers patients the opportunity to participate in a significant number of ongoing radiation clinical trials.
“Texas Oncology is a leader in groundbreaking cancer research and clinical trials in Texas, paving the way for new breakthroughs in cancer care,” said Dr. Salinas. “We encourage patients to discuss the benefits and risks with their physician if they’re interested in participating in a clinical trial.”
With the development of modern technologies, improved equipment, and other medical breakthroughs discovered through clinical trials, radiation treatment will continue to evolve. Physicians now have access to more diversified and most advanced treatment options than ever before. With these technologies as tools, physicians can fight cancer in the most effective, personalized manner yet.
Rogelio Salinas, M.D., Texas Oncology is a radiation oncologist at Texas Oncology–McAllen, 1901 South 2nd Street in McAllen, Texas. To learn more about advancements in cancer treatment, visit www.TexasOncology.com or call 1-888-864-4226.