External beam radiation therapy is a non-invasive approach to killing cancer cells by using a source of focused energy—usually an X-ray—that originates outside the body. While healthy cells can typically recover from radiation exposure, most cancer cells can’t.
For some cancers, radiation is the first line of defense. For other types, it supports surgery, chemotherapy, or other treatments.
There are a variety of radiation techniques used for different types and stages of cancer. A single principle guides them all: narrowly target as much radiation as possible at cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy cells.
We use advanced technology in imaging and beam delivery to focus treatment on the radiation target while reducing side effects.
Your radiation oncology team will recommend a treatment technique and schedule tailored to your body and diagnosis.
Types of external radiation treatments
We use several different types of equipment and software to deliver radiation, depending on the dose required, as well as the shape and size of the tumor and its location in your body:
- 3-dimensional conformal radiation therapy uses special filters to create beams of radiation shaped to the contours of your tumor.
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy uses a mix of radiation beams at varying intensities to expose a tumor to as much radiation as possible while limiting healthy tissue damage.
- Stereotactic treatments, such as stereotactic body radiation therapy and stereotactic radiosurgery, use extremely intense, precise beams of radiation to eliminate very small tumors.
To enhance your safety and reduce side effects, we use a number of imaging technologies that help us minimize radiation exposure to healthy tissue:
- Image-guided radiotherapy uses X-ray, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to plan and monitor your radiation treatment.
- MRI-guided radiation therapy uses real-time magnetic resonance imaging to visualize your internal organs during treatment.
- Respiration-gated synchronized treatment coordinates radiation beams to your breathing, to maintain accuracy even when the position of your internal organs changes with each breath.
- Surface guided radiation therapy uses lights and cameras to monitor your body alignment in real-time during treatment and enhance accuracy.
We also offer:
- Intraoperative radiation therapy, which is used by surgeons to provide intense, direct radiation in the operating room
- Partial breast irradiation, which concentrates treatment over fewer sessions, during which more intense beams are directed at a small portion of the breast
- Volumetric arc radiation therapy, which uses high-dose, tailored photon beams to target small tumors
- Total body radiation therapy, which is used to prepare your body for a stem cell transplant