Radiation therapy for cancer treatment
At Sharp, we offer the newest and most sophisticated radiation planning and treatment equipment. This allows for accurate treatment planning, minimizing side effects and optimizing outcomes.
Radiation therapy treatments and techniques.
At Sharp, we offer the following radiation therapies:
We offer brachytherapy — a sophisticated form of internal radiation therapy with many modern benefits — to treat prostate cancer, breast cancer and cervical cancer, as well as select other cancers. Brachytherapy directly targets the cancerous area inside or next to the tumor, protecting surrounding healthy tissue and offering a safe and effective alternative to surgical treatment.
Brachytherapy offers a short treatment time and no surgery. Benefits include preservation of healthy tissue, a quick recovery time, reduced risk of infection and a short or no hospital stay.
Brachytherapy can be delivered as a short course of treatment (high-dose rate, or HDR) or as a permanent implant (low-dose rate, or LDR).
With LDR brachytherapy, radioactive seeds are placed inside your body by a team of experts specially trained in this procedure, including your radiation oncologist. Your oncologist will create a personalized treatment plan to determine how many seeds need to be placed to most effectively treat your cancer.
With HDR brachytherapy, radioactive sources are loaded into catheters or cylinders positioned inside or near the tumor. This type of brachytherapy is performed on an outpatient basis over several days in the radiation department. While most HDR brachytherapy courses can be delivered to you as an outpatient, some may require an overnight hospital stay.
SAVI® for breast cancer patients.
SAVI® is a new brachytherapy procedure that offers safe and effective radiation therapy for breast cancer patients in just five days.
After your surgeon performs a lumpectomy (removal of breast tumor), they will make a small incision in the breast and insert a small, soft SAVI® applicator through which the treatment will be delivered.
Radiation treatments are delivered twice a day over a consecutive five-day period for a total of 10 treatments. During each treatment, a catheter is attached to the applicator within the breast, then small radioactive seeds are inserted. These seeds remain within the device during treatment delivery. Each radiation treatment takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes, as determined by the treatment plan.
In some cases, brachytherapy is used to treat prostate cancer. This is typically an option for men who have early stage prostate cancer that has not spread beyond the prostate, who are unable or unwilling to undergo removal of the prostate or do not want to endure eight weeks of daily radiation treatments.
With prostate brachytherapy, radioactive seeds are placed in the prostate while you are in the operating room under general anesthesia. Your radiation oncologist utilizes ultrasound images to create a personalized treatment plan to determine the number and position of radioactive seeds.
This procedure allows you to go home on the same day as the procedure and return to a normal life.
Accuray Radixact System
Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
Computer-controlled linear accelerators can be manipulated to deliver the radiation beam in the 3-D shape of the tumor, thus minimizing the effect on nearby tissue. With this targeted ability, the intensity of the radiation can also be adjusted during treatment, something not possible with conventional radiation. Treatment areas include:
- Head and neck
Sharp has the following intensity-modulated radiation therapies.
- Accuray Radixact System
- Elekta Versa HD
- TrueBeam STx® radiotherapy/radiosurgery system
Stereotactic radiosurgery and radiotherapy
Radiosurgery is a noninvasive cancer treatment that precisely delivers high doses of radiation to destroy the tumor without damaging surrounding tissue. It can be delivered to almost any part of the body, including areas surgeons cannot access.
This treatment is ideal for brain tumors, hard-to-reach or small lung tumors and even tumors involving the spine.
While stereotactic radiosurgery is delivered in 1 fraction, your doctor may choose to deliver up to 5 fractions, which then makes it stereotactic radiotherapy.
Cutting-edge treatment and advanced technology.
Combining sophisticated imaging with treatment, during the procedure the linear accelerator rotates around you to deliver radiation treatment from nearly any angle.
The radiation beam is sculpted to match the three-dimensional shape of the tumor by using a multileaf collimator (MLC), a device with 120 computer-controlled mechanical "leaves" that can move to create different shapes and sizes.
Because of the equipment’s tremendous precision, full doses of radiation can be delivered quickly and accurately to the tumor with little or no damage to healthy surrounding tissue.
A soothing environment to receive treatment.
Our advanced communication technology allows for constant contact between you and the therapist operating the equipment, creating a soothing environment. You may also request music be played during treatment.
Radiosurgery treatments we offer.
At Sharp, we offer the following radiosurgery treatments using image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT), Rapid Arc®/VMAT and IMRT techniques with state-of-the-art equipment.
- Elekta Versa HD linear accelerator — available at Sharp Grossmont and Sharp Memorial hospitals
This equipment enables our team to customize your treatment to fit your unique needs — such as utilizing active breathing control to spare healthy tissues for breast cancer patients or treating brain tumors with highly precise stereotactic radiosurgery.
- TrueBeam STx® linear accelerator — available at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center
TrueBeam can be used for nearly all cancer types, especially those difficult to precisely target because they move, such as kidney, liver, lung and breast cancer by using deep inspiration breath hold techniques. TrueBeam also allows for new possibilities in treating brain tumors.
Certain techniques are available to help complement specific radiation therapy treatments. These include:
- Deep inspiration breath hold (DIBH)
- Technique that requires you to hold your breath for 20 to 30 seconds during treatment planning, a CT simulation scan and radiation treatment
- Helps minimize any potential radiation damage to the heart. Because the heart is located on the left side of the body, we only use DIBH for patients with early stage cancer in their left breast. Body type and internal anatomy also affect whether DIBH will be useful during radiation therapy. For some people, even when they breathe normally, their heart will not be in the radiation field, so DIBH won't be necessary. We will make a recommendation for DIBH use after your first planning appointment or CT simulation scan.
- If you decide to perform deep inspiration breath hold, it helps to practice the technique before you begin actual radiation treatment.
- Watch our video to learn more about deep inspiration breath hold and view practice techniques. Para conocer más sobre la contención de respiración en inspiración profunda, vea las técnicas de práctica en este video en español.
- If you have questions about the deep inspiration breath hold, please talk with your radiation oncologist.
- Respiratory gating
What to expect during radiation treatment.
Your initial visit will be a consultation with one of our radiation oncologists to determine if radiation therapy might benefit you. If radiation therapy is recommended, your next appointment will likely involve a CT scan, which will be used to identify the area(s) needing to be treated. Over the next few days, the radiation oncology team will carefully design your radiation therapy plan. Once your plan is completed, you will start your radiation treatments.
Your initial radiation therapy visit and consultation
At your first visit, a Sharp-affiliated radiation oncologist will evaluate your condition and determine if you could benefit from radiation therapy.
- The doctor will obtain a medical history, perform a physical examination and review your medical records and X-rays; your doctor may also order some additional tests
- If you and your doctor decide that you will undergo radiation treatment, your doctor will explain the treatment and have you sign a consent form
- Please bring photo identification, a list of medications, insurance card, referral forms, X-rays and any medical records that you have
- Remember to write down and bring a list of your questions
- You may also find it beneficial to bring a family member or friend for support
Once radiation therapy is decided upon, you will have a CT simulation scan.
- Computerized tomography (CT) simulation is used to plan the radiation treatment fields; the CT simulator is not diagnostic and does not deliver radiation treatment.
- Patients are placed in a CT machine so that special images can be obtained.
- If you are receiving radiation to the head and neck area, a mask will be made for you at this time to be used throughout your radiation treatment. NOTE: If you are claustrophobic, please inform the doctor or nurse before the day of simulation.
- Expect to remain in one position for 30 to 45 minutes. Special, individually constructed mobilization devices may be used to help achieve alignment while keeping you still and in the optimal position.
- You will be given multiple "tattoos," which mark the treatment fields. The tattoos resemble small freckles and serve as a "target" for the radiation.
When your radiation treatment plan is completed, you will be contacted to schedule your radiation treatment appointments.
Outpatient radiation treatment
Usually, radiation treatment starts a few days to a week after the CT simulation.
- It is important not to miss treatments and to arrive on time to your appointments.
- A daily radiation treatment typically lasts 10 to 15 minutes in the treatment room. Expect to be in the treatment room longer on your first day of radiation treatment to allow for initial set-up and explanation of the process.
- On the first day and once each week an X-ray of the area being treated will be taken to confirm you are being positioned accurately during treatment. These "port films" are not diagnostic and do not show the progress of your treatment.
- It is important to be able to relax, lie quietly and breathe normally during the treatment. If you require pain or antianxiety medication, it is recommended that you take it prior to coming in for your treatment.
- Radiation therapy is generally given once a day, five days a week, usually at the same time each day.
- The number of treatments needed is determined by your doctor and typically varies between one to eight weeks.
Come to a radiation treatment class
You are invited and encouraged to attend a 60-minute radiation treatment information class. These free classes meet the first and third Thursday of each month at 1 pm in Conference Room W015, Level 0, of the Sharp Memorial Outpatient Pavilion.
You can elect to attend on any Thursday prior to or during your first week of treatment. To reserve your space in the class, please call us at 858-939-5127.
Receive care from our expert radiation treatment team
Your care is provided by a multidisciplinary team of professionals to ensure that you receive the individual care you need. In addition to specially trained oncology nurses and your radiation oncologist, your care team may include:
- Case managers to help you navigate your treatment journey
- Dietitian to help you follow a healthy eating plan, maintain your weight and tolerate food
- Social worker to provide individual, family and group support services
Excellence in delivering high-quality patient care.
Our team of expert radiation oncologists provides compassionate treatment to our patients in the safest manner possible. With our standards for high quality and safety processes at Sharp, we have been nationally recognized with accreditation by the American Society for Radiation Oncology Accreditation Program for Excellence (APEx).
APEx accreditation at Sharp’s cancer centers ensures that our radiation oncology patients receive the highest quality care while meeting the highest safety standards set by the world’s premier radiation oncology society.
– Dr. Kelly DeWitt, board-certified radiation oncologist
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