Radiation therapy for cancer
Radiation therapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.
Around half of all cancer patients receive radiation therapy.
Destroying cancer cells
There are many ways to have radiation therapy but they all work in a similar way. Carefully controlled high-energy X-rays destroy or damage cancer cells. This stops them growing or spreading.
Radiation therapy is usually delivered in daily intervals called ‘fractions’. This allows time between treatments for the healthy cells to repair and the cancer cells to die off.
Advanced radiation therapy services
At GenesisCare, we’re always pushing the boundaries of technology to develop better radiation therapy treatments. Targeting the cancer cells in tumours without damaging the surrounding healthy tissue.
Brachytherapy (internal radiation therapy) is a type of radiation therapy. It involves placing a tiny amount of radioactive material into, or next to the tumour. Depending on the type of cancer being treated, material may be inserted using a very thin needle or wire, an applicator, or radioactive beads or ‘seeds’.
Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH) is a simple technique used to treat cancer in the breast or chest wall. It’s precisely targeted so there’s less chance of damage to the heart and lungs.
External beam radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation beams to destroy cancer cells. Before your treatment begins, we’ll take some imaging scans to establish the precise shape, size and location of the tumour. If your treatment is after your tumour removal surgery, then we’ll take scans to examine the area where the tumour was removed.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an established stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) technique for tumours, vascular malformations, and other abnormalities of the brain. The Gamma Knife is a radiation therapy machine which can deliver large doses of precisely targeted radiation, minimising radiation to the surrounding healthy brain reducing the risk of damage.
IGRT uses X-rays and scans before, and during, your treatment. It’s used to verify your position and anatomy before the treatment machine is turned on.
- The scans show the exact shape, size and location of the tumour. We can then make tiny adjustments to precisely target the treatment area
- IGRT can target cancers that move during, or between, treatment sessions. For example, lung cancers that move as you breathe. Or prostate cancer that can move depending on whether your bowel is full or empty
IMRT is a ‘conformal’ radiation therapy. This means radiation beams are shaped to surround the treatment area, so it avoids damaging surrounding healthy tissue.
MR-Linac technology combines high resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning techniques with extremely powerful radiotherapy beams to treat tumours more accurately and quicker than conventional radiation therapy. This type of radiation therapy is called magnetic resonance image guided radiation therapy (MRIgRT).
Palliative radiation therapy’s aim isn’t to cure cancer. We focus on giving you a better quality of life by controlling your symptoms.
Prostate spacers is an option for men having radiation therapy for prostate cancer. It’s a water-based soft gel implant that temporarily creates a small gap between the prostate and the rectum. This gap protects the rectum from radiation exposure during prostate radiation therapy, meaning fewer side-effects.
We use the latest treatment techniques to treat skin cancer without the use of surgery or general anaesthetic.
SRS is a non-surgical treatment for some types of cranial cancers. It delivers high doses of precisely targeted radiation therapy which reduces damage to nearby healthy tissue.
- It’s often used to treat small tumours of the brain
- It’s accurate to within one to two millimetres
Tomotherapy is a type of IMRT. It combines the technologies of a CT scanner (providing 3D images) and an IMRT machine to accurately target a tumour.
- Creating a 3D image of the tumour means we can target the beams precisely. We adjust the treatment to the size, shape and location of the treatment area
- The tumour is given a very high dose of radiation. The healthy surrounding tissue gets a much lower dose, reducing the risk of side-effects
Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) is a type of IMRT. VMAT is very accurate and maximises radiation to the tumour. The surrounding healthy tissue receives a much lower dose, reducing the risk of side-effects.
- VMAT delivers a continuous beam of radiation therapy in an arc that moves around the tumour. It automatically changes the beam shape and radiation dose as it moves
- Treatment sessions with VMAT are usually short – around 10 minutes
- VMAT can be used when the tumour is close to critical organs. It helps them avoid being damaged by radiation
Radiation therapy is a common cancer treatment in Australia.
- Skin changes
- Swelling and build up of fluids
- Hair loss
- Stress, anxiety and other coping issues are also common
Any procedure including treatments involving radiation carry risks, including skin irritation and associated pain. Before proceeding with a referral for treatment, patients should be advised to seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner. As in any medical procedure, patient experiences and outcomes will vary.