We know that the diagnosis of Cancer may seem scary and that’s why Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center is committed to providing the very best in oncology care. Saint Mary’s has the most state-of-the-art Elekta Synergy radiation treatment system to help treat your cancer as aggressively as possible. The advanced system is the only all-digital treatment devise in the world, and it allows your doctors to see your tumor at the very time of treatment. The high quality, 3D images taken at the time of treatment can be compared to your previous CT scans quickly and precisely to make sure the doctors are treating you as accurately as possible, with the least amount of radiation effecting healthy tissue.
Elekta Synergy provides unmatched clinical confidence to more aggressively treat tumors, while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue. In addition to improving accuracy, Elekta Synergy reduces or eliminates the need for implanting markers, as clinicians can visualize soft tissue detail using Elekta Synergy VolumeView™.
This low-dose imaging capability helps minimize the side effects of radiation therapy by reducing the margins previously set to account for uncertainties of target dimensions, location and movement.
What is radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy uses ionizing radiation produced by a linear accelerator (linac) to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. The radiation passes through the body and delivers dose to the affected area while minimizing dose to the skin and tissue it passes through.
Although the radiation affects both cancer and normal cells, it has a greater effect on the cancer cells, damaging their genetic material and making impossible for these cells to continue to grow and divide. Treatment aimed at cure will give the highest possible dose of radiation to the cancer area (within safe limits) to attempt to kill all the cancer cells. Sometimes smaller doses are used, where the aim is to reduce the size of a tumor and/or relieve symptoms.
Electrons are used to treat skin cancers and other superficial lesions, as they are absorbed by the first few centimeters of skin, leaving very little dose to pass into the body. Radiation therapy is used to both cure disease and alleviate the symptoms of cancer. There also are several non-malignant conditions treated using radiation therapy.
What happens during radiation therapy?
Here are the steps you’ll go through at Saint Mary’s:
1. Visit to Hospital Consultant
The radiation oncologist may ask for diagnostic procedures to be undertaken, either in the radiation therapy department or at a general hospital. These can include X-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) scans, biopsies and blood tests. Once the nature of the disease has been established, a treatment regime will be planned and prescribed.
MRI, CT or PET scanning is required to determine the exact size, shape and position of the area to be treated within the body, known as the treatment site. These images are then used to plan the patients’ treatment.
3. Treatment Planning
Once your images have been taken, your physician develops a treatment plan. The treatment plan is created using treatment planning software, which calculates the position, dose and frequency of the treatment. Before treatment commences the treatment may be simulated i.e., performed on a non-treating machine, to ensure the correct treatment will be delivered later.
Treatment may be given on an outpatient or in-patient basis. It is imperative that the prescription and treatment plan is adhered to as any missed treatment caused through sickness or equipment breakdown may affect its success. The patient usually receives the same treatment each day for a course of treatment, which can last up to six weeks. Treatment is monitored regularly and may be adjusted if the patient suffers from adverse side effects or loses weight.
To receive the radiation therapy, you will lie on a couch under the machine, and be asked to remain still during the actual treatment. The treatment is completely painless. Radiation cannot be seen or felt while it is being given.
During treatment a process of verification takes place. By using iViewGTTM on a digital linear accelerator or XVI imaging on Elekta Synergy®, images are taken of the treatment site. These images are used to verify both the patient position and the accuracy of the treatment beam.
When the treatment is completed, the patient attends follow-up clinics for up to five years. These are held to assist the patient in managing any post treatment side effects and to monitor the disease regression or progression. Initially the patient attends the Radiotherapy Center. Annual follow-ups may then be conducted at a hospital closer to the patient.