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.

Consultation

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.

Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT)
IGRT uses all-digital treatment devices with built-in imaging scanners. This allows the doctor to map out the exact location of the tumor and give treatment on the same machine. IGRT technology tracks tumor movement during treatment, which gives doctors the opportunity to make adjustments that ensure accuracy.

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)
IMRT takes three-dimensional scans of the tumor and delivers treatment that is customized to the size, shape, and location of the tumor. The intensity is varied (modulated), and the shape of the beam changes as the shape of the tumor changes.

External Beam Therapy (3-Dimensional, 4-Dimensional and Conformal)
External Beam Therapy delivers a beam or multiple beams of high-energy x-rays to the cancer site. Operating in three and four dimensions helps ensure accuracy and allows the beams to be fine-tuned to the size and shape of the tumor.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)
Despite its name, stereotactic radiosurgery is a non-surgical therapy; there are no incisions. During treatment, the doctor delivers high-power radiation to a pinpoint location. Because SRS radiation is so accurate, therapists use it to treat small tumors of the brain and spine, while preserving the surrounding tissue.

Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT)
Despite its name, stereotactic body radiation therapy is a non-surgical; there are no incisions. SBRT and SRS are similar, but SBRT deals with tumors outside of the brain and spine. During treatment, the doctor delivers high-power radiation to a pinpoint location on the body, while preserving the surrounding tissue.

RapidArc
RapidArc is an IMRT treatment that takes just minutes to complete. The RapidArc machine makes one revolution around the body, delivering a precise dose treatment to the tumor.

Surface-Guided Radiation Therapy (SGRT)
Surface-guided radiation therapy tracks the patient’s skin for movement during treatment. This video-based tracking technology monitors movement, ranging from coughs and sneezes right down to the patient’s breathing pattern. When any motion exceeds acceptable levels the beam is cut to avoid treating healthy tissue.

Brachytherapy

Unlike other radiation therapies, brachytherapy involves radioactive sources that are placed inside the body, either permanently or temporarily.

Low Dose Rate Brachytherapy (LDR)
During low dose rate brachytherapy treatment, the doctor inserts needles that are pre-filled with radioactive seeds into the tumor. The needle or device is then removed, leaving the radioactive seeds behind.

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.

High Dose Rate Brachytherapy (HDR)
High dose rate brachytherapy uses a radioactive source that's inserted into the patient's body for a short period of time.

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.