Renown Health's Institute for Cancer has the most advanced radiation therapy system of its kind, and the first program in the region with American College of Radiology (ACR-RO) accreditation.
Our expert team includes highly trained doctors, medical physicists, dosimetrists, radiation therapists and registered nurses. All have certifications in radiation oncology specialties and patient care.
Call 775-982-4000 to learn more.
What is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles to eliminate cancerous cells. It’s a common form of cancer treatment, and may be used in conjunction with other treatments, like chemotherapy or surgery.
Why Choose Renown?
Renown’s state-of-the-art Varian TrueBeam radiation therapy system delivers treatment so precisely, it reaches sub-millimeter levels of accuracy, and unlike other treatment centers in the region, Renown has the technology to deliver radiation from 360 degrees around the patient’s body. This allows us to target cancerous cells and spare healthy tissue.
What is Radiation Treatment Like?
Treating cancer with radiation is a process that usually lasts about five to eight weeks. The first two appointments are the Consultation and Simulation and Mapping, which help plan treatment. These are followed by short, daily radiation treatment appointments.
The first appointment is called the consultation. A radiation oncologist meets with the patient to discuss treatment options, perform a physical examination and answer questions.
Simulation and Mapping
Since the goal of radiation therapy is to target cancer while sparing healthy tissue, maintaining body position and stillness is important. During the simulation and mapping appointment, a CT scan is used to pinpoint the cancer’s exact location in the patient's body. Doctors refer to these scans as they work together to craft a treatment plan.
Patients are fitted with immobilization devices that keep the body still during treatment. Brain and head and neck cancer patients are fitted with a mesh mask to keep the head and neck in position. For cancers elsewhere in the body, patients are fitted with foam molds that form to the body. These personalized molds are kept on-hand for use during daily radiation treatments.
Additionally, the radiation therapist creates several pinpoint-sized tattoos on the patient’s skin to make sure each daily treatment is targeting the same area. These tattoos are permanent but small enough to go unnoticed by others.
Daily Radiation Treatments
At each treatment appointment, a radiation therapist helps the patient onto the treatment table, positions the body, puts the immobilization devices in place and aligns the beam with the tattoos.
The patient lies still on a table while the radiation machine rotates and moves above and around the tumor site to applying radiation. Patients may hear clicking and popping and the hum of the machine, but the treatments themselves don't hurt. Some patients report smelling the ozone that's produced as a byproduct of the radiation.
The treatment itself takes just a couple of minutes, while each daily appointment lasts 15-20 minutes, during which patients can listen to music to help them relax.
Because Renown’s technology is so precise, side effects are minimal.
Types of Radiation Treatment
There are a number of different types of radiation therapy. When prescribing radiation, doctors take into account the cancer’s location, size and other variables.
Unlike other radiation therapies, brachytherapy involves radioactive sources that are placed inside the body, either permanently or temporarily.
Doctors use x-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs or CT scans during the procedure to accurately target the tumor.
The radioactivity of the seeds is so low that they only affect a few millimeters of surrounding tissue.
Over the span of several weeks, the seeds release radiation directly into the tumor while gradually losing their radioactivity. The harmless seeds are left inside the patient permanently.
Doctors most often use LDR brachytherapy to treat prostate cancer, but it can also be used to treat cervical, esophageal, head and neck and lung cancer.
Depending on the location of the cancer, the source may be inserted into a natural body cavity (e.g. into the vagina to treat cervical cancer), or the doctor may implant a temporary delivery device (e.g. an applicator in the breast to treat breast cancer).
The radioactive source kills cancerous cells and shrinks the tumor while sparing the surrounding tissue, and is removed after treatment is complete.
Doctors most often use HDR brachytherapy to treat gynecologic cancers, but it can also be used to treat a number of other cancers including breast, lung and skin cancers.