External Beam Radiation Therapy

Orthovoltage Radiation Therapy: This form of radiation is very low energy or superficial and does not penetrate deep into the body. It is used exclusively to treat superficial carcinoma of the skin. It is typically administered with the Xoft electronic brachytherapy system. Because the energy of the radiation therapy is very low, it can be administered safely in fewer treatments and outside of the radiation therapy department vault. It is usually adminisitered in 8 treatments, 2 treatments per week for four weeks, each treatment lasting approximately 10 minutes. These treatments can be administered within a physicians or dermatologist office with for the patients convenience, however they require a radiation oncologist, medical physicist, and radiation therapist to be present.

Electron Beam Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy in the form of electrons can be delivered with variable energy depending on the depth of tissue that requires treatment, usually between 1 – 4 cm. This process may require a simulation or immobilization of the body region followed by a CT scan and very small tattoos. These treatments are administered directly to the lesion with appropriate margin, over a course of 20 to 33 treatments, approximately 4-7 weeks (depending on the tye of cancer), once per day, lasting 15 minutes, Monday through Friday. Electon therapy treatments are administered using a linear accelerator in a radiation therapy department.

3D Conformal Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy delivered with photons and computer planning are the primary means by which treatments are delivered in the current era of medicine, and has been for approximately 30 years. This process by definition requires immobilization of the body region followed by a CT scan and very small tattoos. The patients “simulation CT” scan can then be used by the radiation oncologist to plan the specific radiation beam arrangements to most effectively treat the tumor and cancer risk areas while avoiding all other normal organs. The goal is always to ensure maximal tumor control or cure while protecting the patient’s adjacent organs and healthy tissues from radiation exposure or injury. These treatments are administered once per day, lasting 15 minutes, Monday through Friday. All 3D treatments are administered using a linear accelerator in a radiation therapy department.

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy: Occasionally, a more sophisticated or complex radiation therapy beam arrangement is required to deliver a curative dose of radiation above what traditional 3D conformal therapy can provide. This may be the result of a need for a higher dose, an area previously treated, or in a body region that has many organs at risk. IMRT may offer a greater chance of cure and less long term side effects for certain stages of cancers.   Your radiation oncologist will determine whether you would benefit from IMRT.