When you need radiation therapy, turn to the expert care team at Stamford Health's Carl & Dorothy Bennett Cancer Center. You’ll benefit from the latest technology, including computed tomography (CT) scans and linear accelerator machines.
How Does Radiation Therapy Work?
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to destroy or damage cancer cells. Radiation therapy damages the genetic material within cancer cells. Once this happens, the cancer cells are not able to grow and spread. When the damaged cancer cells die, the body naturally removes them. Normal cells also are affected by radiation, but they are able to repair themselves in a way that cancer cells cannot.
Your radiation oncologist will develop a personalized care plan to deliver radiation to the tumor area, shielding as much surrounding normal tissue as possible.
Goals of Radiation Therapy
Your doctor may recommend radiation therapy to:
- Cure or shrink early-stage cancer
- Stop cancer from coming back (recurring) or moving somewhere else (metastasizing)
- Treat and help to minimize symptoms caused by advanced cancer
- Treat cancer that has returned (recurred)
Types of Radiation Therapy
Work with a care team who helps you decide what option is right for you based on your overall health, specific diagnosis and treatment goals.
External Beam Radiation
External beam radiation therapy uses a machine to direct high-energy beams of radiation at precise points on your body.
Your care team may recommend:
- 3D conformal radiation therapy (3D- CRT) - Deliver radiation beams from different angels to match the shape of the tumor
- Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) - Allows the doctor to change the dose of radiation as needed
- Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) - Gives a large dose of radiation into a small tumor, usually in one session to treat brain tumors
- Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) - Provides a large amount of radiation to treat certain lung, spine, and liver tumors
EXperts in SRS & SBRT
Rely on a team with years of experience using SRS and SBRT to treat certain cancers.
Truebeam linear accelerator
We're proud to be a member of the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Care Collaborative, providing our staff and patients access to the latest and most effective, evidence-based best practices and standards in cancer treatment and research.
With our TrueBeam Linear Accelerator, you can receive extremely precise radiation treatments in less time – that means you’ll experience more comfortable treatments and have less damage to surrounding tissue. Your doctor may use our TrueBeam Linear Accelerator to deliver external beam radiation therapy if you have a tumor in a sensitive area like the:
Internal Radiation (Brachytherapy)
Your treatment plan may include internal radiation, or brachytherapy. With brachytherapy, your doctor places a small, powerful radioactive seed or pellet directly in or right next to your tumor. This means you can get a higher dose of radiation while still protecting as much healthy tissue as possible.
Depending on your condition and type of cancer, you may receive:
- High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy – Radioactive material is placed in your body for a few minutes at a time; you’ll be able to return home the same day
- Low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy – Radioactive material is placed in your body for up to several days; you may need to stay in the hospital overnight
You may receive brachytherapy alone or in combination with other therapies, such as surgery, external beam radiation, and chemotherapy.
Start by working with your doctor to decide whether radiation therapy is right for you. During your first visit, your radiation oncologist will:
- Review your medical history, family health history and current medications
- Ask about your symptoms
- Physically examine you
- Explain benefits, risks and side effects of radiation therapy
- Recommend additional tests, if needed
Depending on your condition and medical history, your doctor may request additional tests to help determine if radiation therapy is right for you.
Radiation therapy simulation
Trust your radiation oncologist to pinpoint the area to that needs treatment through a process called simulation. During simulation, you’ll lie still on the simulation table while your radiation oncologist and radiation therapist use imaging scans (usually computed tomography, also known as a CT scan) to determine your treatment area. Your team may create a custom headrest or other device to help you lie comfortably in a specific position throughout your treatment.
Your radiation therapist will mark the treatment area with semi-permanent ink and tape. These marks can be removed after you complete radiation treatment. You may receive a small tattoo if the tape doesn’t stay on.
Personalized Treatment Plans
Your radiation team will recommend a treatment plan based on your simulation and previous tests. Rely on your team to create a customized treatment plan that protects as much healthy tissue as possible.
Radiation Therapy Treatment Schedule
Depending on your needs, you may receive treatment five days a week (Monday through Friday) for one to nine weeks. The number of radiation treatments you will need depends on your:
- Tumor size, location, and type of cancer you have
- Treatment goals
- Overall health
- Other medical treatments
If your treatment plan includes chemotherapy, count on us for coordinated care and appointments.
Side Effects of Radiation Therapy
Most of the side effects of radiation therapy are limited to the area receiving treatment. Side effects are usually temporary, mild, and treatable. Symptoms typically begin by the second or third week of treatment and may last for a few weeks after you complete your treatment.
The side effects you experience will depend on the type of cancer you have and the part of your body that’s receiving radiation. Ask your radiation oncologist and nurse what side effects to expect during your treatment.
Your radiation therapy care team may include:
- Radiation oncologist — Oversees your radiation therapy treatments. This doctor works with other members of the radiation therapy team to develop your treatment plan and ensure that you receive treatment safely and accurately. Your radiation oncologist will monitor your progress and adjust your treatment to make sure the radiation hits the target while minimizing side effects. Your radiation oncologist works closely with your other cancer doctors, such as medical oncologists and surgeons, to maximize the radiation’s effectiveness.
- Radiation therapist — Administers your daily radiation therapy treatment.
- Radiation oncology nurse — Works with your radiation oncologist and radiation therapist to care for you and your family during your radiation treatments. They will explain possible side effects and describe how you can manage them. They will assess how you are doing throughout your treatment and help you cope with any changes you may experience. They will also provide support to you and your family.
- Medical physicists — Work directly with the radiation oncologists during treatment planning and delivery. They oversee the dosimetrist’s work and help ensure that complex treatments are tailored to you.
- Dosimetrists — Use treatment planning computers to generate the radiation plan prescribed by your radiation oncologist to treat your cancer. Since treatment plans are often very complex, dosimetrists work closely with your radiation oncologist and medical physicist to develop a customized treatment plan. They assure radiation machines and equipment are working properly.
During your radiation therapy treatment you will work with a support care team that includes social workers, nutritionists, and nurse navigators.