Radiation oncology is a medical specialty that uses high-energy radiation beams to
either treat cancer or reduce pain and other symptoms associated with cancer. The
doctors use high-energy X-rays which damage the DNA inside the cancer cells. The
DNA-damaged cancer cells fail to reproduce and eventually die.
The Radiation Oncology team includes highly trained and qualified radiation
oncologists, radiation therapists, radiation oncology nurses, and supportive care
team members. They use advanced and innovative technologies to deliver safe and
effective radiation to cancer patients with minimal side effects.
Radiation therapy is among the most common and effective treatments for cancer.
Radiation therapy is also called radiotherapy, irradiation, and x-ray therapy.
Usually, radiation therapy is used alone, or with other treatments as well. Other
treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, hormones, or targeted therapy.
How does Radiation Therapy work?
Cancer cell DNA is damaged by using high doses of radiation that kill cancer cells
or slow down their growth. Thus, the damaged DNA of cancer cells stops dividing or
dies. These damaged cells, when they die are removed from the body.
Radiation therapy does not kill cancer cells right away. The treatment may take days
or weeks to damage the DNA so that cells eventually die. Then, cancer cells keep
dying for weeks or months after radiation therapy ends.
Types of Radiation Therapy
There are two main types of radiation therapy, external beam and internal.
Factors that determine the type of radiation therapy:
- The Cancer Type
- Tumor Size
- Location of the tumor in the body
- How close the tumor is to normal tissues that are sensitive to radiation
- Your general health and medical history
- Whether you will have other types of cancer treatment
- Other factors, such as your age and other medical conditions
External-beam Radiation Therapy:
It is the most common type of radiation therapy. It delivers radiation from a machine
outside the body. It can treat large areas of the body if needed.
A machine called a linear accelerator, or LINAC creates the radiation beam for x-ray
or photon radiation therapy. Special computer software adjusts the beam’s size and
shape. This helps target the tumor while avoiding healthy tissue near the cancer
Internal Radiation Therapy:
Internal radiation therapy is also called brachytherapy. This type of radiation
therapy is when radioactive material is placed into cancer or surrounding tissue.
Implants may be permanent or temporary and may require a hospital stay.
The key highlights of this department include:
- Conventional radiation therapy: It uses high-energy radiation beams in the form
of X-rays, gamma rays, or photons to destroy the tumor cells or to reduce the
chance of its recurrence. Radiation therapy is often combined with chemotherapy
for effective results. This is known as chemo-radiation.
- 3D Conformal Radiation Therapy (3DCRT): It is a technique that uses advanced
imaging technologies to generate three-dimensional images of a tumor and nearby
organs. Multi-leaf collimators are used to shape the dose to the tumor target
and reduce the dose to the surrounding organs. This improves the accuracy of
treatment over conventional treatment.
- Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT): It is an advanced radiation
treatment that uses computerized programs to calculate and deliver precise
radiation to tumors while reducing radiation exposure to healthy tissues. IMRT
is widely recommended in the treatment of head and neck, pelvic, and thoracic
- Volumetric-Modulated ARC Therapy (VMAT)/ RapidArc: This is an advanced form of
Intensity-modulated radiation therapy that is used for delivering radiation
therapy with varying intensities in the shortest possible time aimed at tumors
near sensitive body organs.
- Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS): This is a highly advanced precision
radiotherapy technique that delivers very high doses to ablate small tumors.
It’s not a surgery in the traditional sense as it does not involve a skin
incision. It delivers a precise amount of radiation beam to treat small tumors
in the brain. When SRS is performed to treat tumors located in other regions of
the body. It is referred to as Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy.
- Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT): It involves the delivery of single
high-dose radiation treatment or a few fractionated radiation treatments from
many different angles around the body. SBRT is used to treat small, early-stage
lung cancer and pancreatic cancer. It is also used for cancers that have spread
to the lung, liver, adrenal gland, or spine.
- Brachytherapy (internal radiation therapy): In this therapy, the radiation
source is placed inside the body near the tumor to deliver high-dose radiation.
Depending on the site of cancer, radiations can be delivered by intracavitary,
intraluminal, and multi-catheter methods.
- Extracorporeal Radiotherapy (ECRT): It is usually done as a part of
limb-salvage surgery to save the limb. This procedure involves taking out the
cancerous bone, treating it with radiation, and then placing it again.
Questions to ask your doctor about Radiation Therapy
- What’s the purpose of radiation treatment for my type of cancer? To destroy or
shrink the tumor? To prevent or stop cancer spread? To lower the chance cancer
may come back?
- What’s the chance that cancer will spread or come back if I do – or don’t – get
- What type of radiation therapy will I get?
- Are there other treatment options?
- What can I do to be ready for treatment?
- Can I eat before treatment or do I need to avoid certain foods before getting
- Do I need to follow a certain diet while I'm on treatment?
- How often is it given? How long will each treatment take? How long will I be on
- What should I do if I have trouble getting to treatment because of ride
problems or weather?
- What side effects am I likely to have, when will they start, and how long will
- Will treatment and/or side effects change how I look?
- What long-term side effects might I have?
- Will I be at higher risk for any other health problems in the future?
- Will I be radioactive during or after my treatment?
- Are any special precautions needed during or after my treatment?
Questioning and the answers you get give you clarity. Having clarity is a sign of an
optimistic patient and a fightback mindset. Let’s fight to defeat cancer.