Cancer Treatment Using Different Radiation Therapy Techniques Part 1

There are numerous types of radiation therapy that oncologists are using to treat cancers today.  Several types of radiation particles or waves are used to deliver radiation treatment including photons, electrons and protons.  Photons and electrons are the used types of radiation as they are the most abundant.  Proton radiation therapy is available in a few medical therapy facilities while new proton therapies are being developed.

The three types of radiation therapy, photon, electron and proton therapy, all have the same basic effects on cancerous tissues; to eliminate them.  Each type of therapy has its own set of benefits and drawbacks which is why oncologists use it over the others in treating certain cancers.  In the following few installments on radiology treatments we will discuss why certain therapy’s are chosen by radiation oncologists over others.  Only the radiation oncologist treating you will understand your cancer situation and the best radiation therapy to best care for specific condition.

Photon Radiation Treatment Options

Photon beams are similar to those used in diagnostic x-ray machines like what would be seen to check for a bone break.  These same photon beams but in a much higher energy beam are used in radiotherapy.  Most conventional photon radiation is delivered using a machine known as a linear accelerator or linas for short.

First we will take a look into two dimensional photon therapies which are the most common therapy options in treating cancer.  This conventional radiation therapy utilizes x-ray films to determine how to best position the radiation beams to treat the cancerous tumors.  In treatment, the bones on the x-rays are used to map out the position of the tumor in relation to normal organs to allow radiologists to position the radiation beams on the targeted cancerous tumor.  In conventional radiation therapy the planning is done in a quick, efficient manner and a patient can begin the process of treatment swiftly.  Other techniques in treating cancer require lengthier planning.

Three dimensional radiation therapies use CT scanners and imaging to plan for treating tumors.  This treatment option is the most readily available within medical facilities.   One major advantage of CT-guided treatment over two dimension conventional therapy is that it allows radiation oncologists to define normal organs and cancerous tumors in three dimensions instead of the flat image present in x-ray technology.

Normally this type of treatment begins with the patient receiving a CT scan laying in the exact position they will be in for treatment.  The CT scan will outline the tumor in 3D.  Organs that are not affected will also be outlined so that during treatment they can be avoided.  The photon radiation beams will be positioned to deliver the most advantageous dose of radiation to the cancerous tumor while avoiding normal organs.

Radiologist use computer software in order to calculate the amount of radiation that is optimal to terminate the tumor while minimizing the radiation to healthy tissue.  The goal is to optimize the amount of radiation being received by the cancerous tumor while minimizing the effects of the radiation on healthy organs and tissues surrounding the area.  These calculations are constantly adjusted during treatment to take into consideration these calculations.

In order to better understand how this can be done it is important to understand how the beams are positioned using linear accelerators.  The radiation beams can be shaped in one of two ways.  The first is a leaf within the linear accelerator that can be used to form a customized radiation beam.  Usually these leaves, known as multi-leaf collimators, are made of small, shiny blocks of metal that can be quickly moved around independently of one another to form most complex configurations.  The second way that beams can be shaped is with the use cerrobend blocks that are individually molded into the desired shape.

We will continue to look into the numerous options available in radiation therapy treatments in our next installment.

Acceletronics delivers the best equipment performance and service reliability from Linear Accelerators and CT Scanners across all major brands and models.  Our qualified oncology equipment specialists provide a quality customer experience across the USA with timely field maintenance.  We sell, repair, refurbish, move and finance oncology medical systems check out more at http://www.acceletronics.com.

 

The Ins and Outs Of External Radiation

Radiation therapy is given to patients in a few different manners.  In this article we will discuss external-beam radiation therapy.  This method is done using a linear accelerator, otherwise known as a LINAC.  Depending on the type of cancer being treated, the size of the cancer, the location of the cancer and a few other factors radiation oncologist will prescribe the best manner in which radiation therapy should be given.

Linear accelerators deliver photon beams as x-rays or gamma rays.  A photon is a unit of light or other form of electromagnetic radiation, basically a bundle of energy.  The amount of energy in any given photon will vary.  Photons within gamma rays have the uppermost level of energy followed by x-rays.

LINAC form a stream of quick moving particles using electricity that generates amounts of elevated radiation to treat cancer.  Most often external radiation is given as part of an ongoing, daily treatment plan that lasts several weeks.  Exactly how often the radiation is delivered will depend on a number of aspects such as the total amount of radiation that is to be given.

There are several methods in delivering radiation therapy using external beams.  The most commonly used method by radiation oncologists includes 3-D conformal radiation therapy.  3D-CRT uses advanced computer software and highly developed treatment machines such as linear accelerators to deliver the radiation to the location it is needed without releasing radiation to areas outside of the treatment area.

Other methods of delivering radiation therapy using external beams include:

  • IMRT (Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy): IMRT uses a linear acceleratorcontrolled by computers to release a specific dosage of radiation to an exact location within a tumor. This is an incredibly advanced form of high precision radiotherapy that uses high energy x-rays to destroy cancerous cells.  This form of treatment is usually given for about five to eight week, taking weekends off to allow non-cancerous cells to heal.  Each treatment takes about ten minutes to administer.
  • IGRT (Image-Guided Radiation Therapy): Imaging coordinates are utilized to direct the treatment of radiation therapy. The process uses both two and three dimensional images to guide the course of therapy.
  • Tomo Therapy: In tomo therapy a machine that combines IMRT and computed tomography. This treatment options allows radiation specialists to precisely target hard to reach tumors with powerful radiation beams.  The beam is delivered in slices while the patient moves unlike other forms of radiation therapy where the therapy is paused and the treatment is paused and the patient is then set up in a different manner to receive the radiation.
  • Stereotactic Radio surgery: Stereotactic radio surgery is mainly used for cancerous tumors in the head. The beam is aimed at the tumor from several directions around the head.  For this type of therapy to work properly it is important that the head is in the exact same position for treatment and that it does not move at all.

In our next installment we will look more in depth at internal radiation therapy and systematic radiation therapy.  The real talk in these installments will allow you as a patient to ask the most appropriate questions when discussing therapy options with your oncologist.

Acceletronics delivers the best equipment performance and service reliability from Linear Accelerators and CT Scanners across all major brands and models.  Our qualified oncology equipment specialists provide a quality customer experience across the USA with timely field maintenance.  We sell, repair, refurbish, move and finance oncology medical systems check out more at http://www.acceletronics.com.

The Ins and Outs Of Internal Radiation

Unlike external radiation therapy which is delivered outside of the body, internal radiation therapy delivers radiation inside or on the body.  There are a few manners in which this type of therapy is delivered: interstitial, intracavitary and episcleral brachytherapy.   Interstitial allows radiation to be placed within the tumor.  Intracavitary allows a source of radiation to be placed in a body cavity near a tumor and episcleral that treats melanoma within the eye using a source that is attached to the eye.

With internal radiation therapy the radiation isotopes are sealed into tiny seeds that are delivered into a patient using needles or catheters.  These isotopes naturally deteriorate as they kill the nearby cancerous cells. Internal radiation therapy may deliver higher dosages of radiation to certain cancerous tumors then treatment using linear accelerators, external radiation therapy, while causing less disruption to the normal healthy cells surrounding the cancerous cells.

Internal radiation can be given in either low or high doses.  When low dose radiation is delivered, radiation therapy will be designed to give off radiation to cancerous cells continuously for several days.  If a higher dose of therapy is to be given, a machine is used to attach tubes to guide the radioactive treatment into place and then removes it at the end of treatment.  This can be done in one or more sessions.  The placement of either high or low doses of internal radiation can be given in either one treatment or several depending on the radiation oncologist’s recommendation.

The placement of the tubes delivering radiation can be placed permanently or temporarily.  For the tubes to be put into place permanently they will be surgically sealed within the patient’s body.  The source of the radiation will be sealed into the patient’s body to emit low doses of radiation continuously.  Once all of the radiation has been given off the pouch will remain sealed in the patient’s body without harm or discomfort.   Permanent therapy is given for low doses of radiation treatment.

With temporary treatment the source carrying the radiation is removed after the treatment is performed.  Temporary, internal radiation therapy can be given as a treatment option for both high and low doses of radiation therapy.  This treatment can be used to treat or boost other forms of radiation therapy for cancer.

Another form of radiation therapy is systemic radiation therapy.  This form of treatment is given either an injection or is made to swallow radioactive materials.  This form of therapy is used for thyroid cancers or other cancers in which treatment needs to travel through the blood to locate and kill the tumor cells.  It is also used regularly for pain relief in patients with bone cancer.

In our next installment on radiation therapy we will discuss why some types of radiation therapy is given in small doses and others in larger doses.  We will also discuss more about external radiation therapy using linear accelerators, LINAC, and internal radiation therapy that delivers radiation in several manners.

Acceletronics delivers the best equipment performance and service reliability from Linear Accelerators and CT Scanners across all major brands and models.  Our qualified oncology equipment specialists provide a quality customer experience across the USA with timely field maintenance.  We sell, repair, refurbish, move and finance oncology medical systems check out more at http://www.acceletronics.com.

Delivering Radiation Therapy To Patients

Most often radiation therapy is given in small doses throughout several weeks through an outpatient facility.  This is especially true of external beam radiation therapy given with the use of a linear accelerator.  Most often radiation will only be administered once a day but occasionally can be given twice daily if recommended.

For most patients receiving radiation therapy as part of their cancer treatment external beam radiation therapy will be given once daily using a linear accelerator.  The treatment is delivered in this manner because a once daily treatment plan helps to minimize the amount of damage that is done to the healthy tissue and normal cells surrounding the cancerous tumors and cells.   Also the likelihood of exposing radiation to cancerous cells during the cell cycle when they are most susceptible to DNA damage increases.

Three other methods in which to distribute radiation have been tested including:

Hypo-fractionation: In order to reduce the number of treatments needed, hypo-fractionation is given in larger doses either once a day or less.

Hyper-fractionation: It is the opposite of hypo-fractionation; smaller doses are given throughout multiple treatments a day.

Accelerated Fractionation: In order to reduce the number of weeks treatment is needed, accelerated fractionation allows treatment to be given in larger doses on a daily or weekly basis.

The hope is to find different options that make receiving treatment more convenient to patients without sacrificing the effectiveness of the therapy.

Patients most often receive radiation therapy before, during or after surgery.  In some patients therapy is given using linear accelerators only without other treatments or surgery while others receive chemotherapy and radiation therapy without surgery.  This will vary due to a number of factors.  The exact point at which radiation is delivered alone or with other cancer treatment methods mainly depends on the patient’s goals and specific type of cancer that is being treated.

When radiation therapy is given before a patient has surgery is done in hopes to shrink the tumor.   This makes it simpler for surgeons to remove the entire tumor decreasing the likelihood it will return after the surgery is complete.   Radiation that is given during surgery is known as IORT, inter-operative radiation therapy.  During surgery radiation is given when normal structures are too close to the cancerous tumor and external-beam radiation would damage the nearby normal tissues.   After surgery radiation is known as post-operative therapy.    Post-operative radiation therapy is given during complicated surgeries to regions such as the abdomen and pelvis.

Acceletronics delivers the best equipment performance and service reliability from Linear Accelerators and CT Scanners across all major brands and models.  Our qualified oncology equipment specialists provide a quality customer experience across the USA with timely field maintenance.  We sell, repair, refurbish, move and finance oncology medical systems check out more at http://www.acceletronics.com.

Radiation Therapy As A Treatment For Cancer

In this installment radiation therapy as a treatment for cancer we will look deeper into why some cancer patients receive radiation and some don’t.  We will also concentrate on how individual radiation therapy differs from patient to patient.

Radiation therapy is administered with two different intents: curative and palliative.  When radiation is given with a curative intent the hope that physicians have is that it will cure the cancer.  The treatment is given with the goal of eliminating the tumor and/or preventing a reoccurrence.  When radiation is administered as a cure it can be delivered alone or in conjunction with surgery and/or chemotherapy.

When radiation is administered with a palliative intent the objective is no longer a cure but instead given to relieve the symptoms and reduce any suffering that may be occurring because of the location of the cancer.  Often palliative radiation therapy is given to patients suffering with brain cancer, when the cancer is pressing on the spine or near the esophagus.

The treatment of cancer is individualized to each unique patient scenario.  Treatment planning begins with a radiation oncologist performs simulation.  During simulation, imaging scans are taken to show the size and location of tumors and the area surrounding the tumor.  There are a number of scans that can be used during this process including CT scans, MRI’s, PET’s and ultrasound.

The most common method involves CT scans.  The process of performing a CT scan is fairly straight forward.  The cancer patient will have pictures taken of the inside of their bodies using a computer that is connected to an x-ray machine.  It is important during any simulation scans that the patient remains still and is located in the exact same location each time.  To help cancer patients stay positioned for longer periods of times, molds and head masks have been constructed.

Once the simulation is performed and the radiation oncologist is pleased with the images obtained they can create a detail plan for treatment.  This plan will include exact details on the size and location of the tumor, the size of the area to be treated, the dose of radiation that will be given, how much of the normal tissue will be exposed and the safest angle to direct the radiation.  Once the plan is approved treatment will begin.

Certain tissues are more delicate than others therefore the method in which radiation therapy is given differs. In some cases radiation is delivered through external beams using a machine known as a linear accelerator or linac for short.  Internal radiation is another method used to provide radiation therapy.  Your radiation oncologist will authorize the best course of action for the specific cancer being addressed.

Acceletronics delivers the best equipment performance and service reliability from Linear Accelerators and CT Scanners across all major brands and models.  Our qualified oncology equipment specialists provide a quality customer experience across the USA with timely field maintenance.  We sell, repair, refurbish, move and finance oncology medical systems check out more at http://www.acceletronics.com.

Understanding How Radiation Therapy Works

Many patients going through radiation therapy don’t truly understand how their tumors are shrunk or the cancer cells killed.  It is a complex procedure that many physicians are not able to simplify for patience just learning they have cancer.  It is a term that is commonly tossed out in the treatment plan of various cancers; it is crucial that individuals understand exactly what the treatment they are being prescribed will look like.  In this ongoing series on radiation therapy we will continue to look into the answers to questions many patients and loves ones are asking.

How does radiation kill cancer cells and shrink tumors using various radiation therapy and different techniques?

In radiation therapy the actual DNA of the cancer cells and tumors is damaged.  DNA refers the combination of unique molecules each of us is made from.  The molecules are carried within the cells.  The cells are actually carrying the genetic information, or molecules, that we pass between generations.  Individuals are created from a combination of cells that carry the molecules that carry our unique database of genetics; this genetic database is what radiation therapy is in charge of destroying.

This can occur in two different ways.  Radiation therapy can damage DNA directly thus creating a cell that can no longer repair itself or divide leading to the death of the cell.  Once the cell is damaged and dies it is then broken down into the body and naturally eliminated.

How does radiation therapy only kill those cells that are cancerous?

It doesn’t; that is the most truthful answer when someone asks how radiation therapy knows only to damage the cancerous cells.  In truth healthy normal cells can be damaged which leads to unpleasant side effects.  When planning for treatment the damage that can potentially be done to healthy cells is accounted for.

There is a certain amount of radiation that normal, healthy tissue can safely receive before any real side effects are reported.  Each part of the body is different and therefor a different treatment is used as called for.  External radiation using linear accelerator equipment may be used for more sensitive areas where as internal radiation, brachytherapy, is used on areas where tissue is hardier.  Knowing this information allows doctors to specifically target radiation throughout therapy.

From here our next installment will take a deeper look into why doctors chose to use radiation therapy over other treatments for cancer as well as how a plan is individualized to each specific patient.  As in treatment options of many diseases there is not a one size fits all treatment plan for cancer.  Linear accelerator equipment treating cancer through external radiation may work well with patients of a certain age with certain cancers where it would be ineffective for others.  Our next installment will further look into the answers to why and how questions in radiation therapy.

Acceletronics delivers the best equipment performance and service reliability from Linear Accelerators and CT Scanners across all major brands and models.  Our qualified oncology equipment specialists provide a quality customer experience across the USA with timely field maintenance.  We sell, repair, refurbish, move and finance oncology medical systems check out more at http://www.acceletronics.com.

Treating Cancer Using Radiation Therapy Explained

There are many articles that talk about cancer and treatments for cancers.  Many are written in terms that the average person can’t fully comprehend.  This series of articles will discuss radiation therapy and how it is used to treat cancer.  It is difficult to get a cancer diagnosis for you or someone you love only to find that one of the main treatment options needs a medical degree to understand.  That is where articles like this help.

When treating cancer a term that is often used is radiation.  Many people will ask if the patient will be going through chemotherapy, radiation or a combination.  The problem is that the answer that is given is usually a combination or radiation alone but the reality is the patient hardly understands what that means.  Cancer treatments deserve to be spoken about in terms that all patients can understand and explain to their loved ones.

What exactly is radiation therapy?

In order to fully understand radiation therapy it is important to grasp exactly what radiation is.  There are two main definitions of radiation both which apply when discussing radiation therapy.

1)      Radiation is the discharge of energy in waves or the travel of subatomic particles, particles even smaller than an atom itself.  Most often radiation is used to describe ionization, generally speaking the process that an atom takes to form ions.  An ion is an atom that has either a positive or negative charge.  Positive ions are bad and negative ions are good.

2)      Radiation is also used to convey discharge outward from one central location.

In radiation therapy there are multiple types of radiation that can be used to shrink tumors and kill cancerous cells: x-rays, gamma rays and charged (negatively) particles.  High amounts of radiation in any of the three forms is delivered in treatment.

The process of radiation therapy occurs in one of two different methods.  The first method of radiation delivery is with the use of a machine such as a linear accelerator.  A linacs machine delivers radiation outside of the body.  This is known as external (outside) beam radiation therapy; literally a beam of radiation is sent through to the inside of your body.

The second method in which radiation can be delivered through sealed radioactive material that is placed close to the cancerous cells within the body.  This is often referred to as internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy.

Another form of radiation therapy is systemic radiation therapy which distributes radioactive substances that travels through the blood to kill cancerous cells.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer there is a good chance that you will require some form of radiation therapy; in fact fifty percent of cancer patients do receive radiation therapy at one point or another during their treatment plan.  Not all radiation therapy uses linear accelerator equipment in delivery.  There are multiple methods of distributing radiation to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells.

We will further our discussion on radiation therapy for cancer treatments in out next installment.  Patience experiencing radiation therapy deserve to understand in greater detail the treatment they are receiving.

Acceletronics delivers the best equipment performance and service reliability from Linear Accelerators and CT Scanners across all major brands and models.  Our qualified oncology equipment specialists provide a quality customer experience across the USA with timely field maintenance.  We sell, repair, refurbish, move and finance oncology medical systems check out more at http://www.acceletronics.com.

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Important Factors in Working with Linear Accelerator Equipment

Obtaining expensive equipment, such as a linac system, to provide external radiation therapy is a great responsibility for medical facilities.  A linear accelerator is crucial in penetrating increased amounts of x-ray energy to conform tumors to destroy cancer cells while maintaining the adjacent healthy tissue.  An oncologist specializing in radiation therapy will employ techniques to ensure the appropriate treatment.  On account of the expense involved in purchasing linear accelerator equipment there are numerous aspects to think through.

Proprietorship of the Machinery

Most often large equipment is purchased and owned by a group of investors or physicians to provide treatment within a given facility such as a hospital or medical clinic.  For many patients this is important because they can guarantee that the treatment is needed instead of being recommended for the profitability of the procedure.

The fear is that if a linear accelerator is privately owned that the radiosurgery or radiotherapy may be a procedure that is recommended because of the funds it brings in rather than necessity.  When equipment is owned by a group of individuals, people believe it is less likely that radiotherapy is being prescribed because it is the correct procedure for the patient rather than being prescribed for the profit it brings in.

Intensity of the Equipment

The stronger the equipment, the deeper into the individuals tissues it can infiltrate.  The strength of the therapy is not always a direct product of the multiple electron rating of the machine but rather a result of the technique employed to deliver the radiation.

Imaging Tools Being Used

Depending on where the tumor being target is located often determines the imaging tool that is utilized to deliver radiation therapy.  An MRI is the preferred imaging method in targeting a brain tumor.  It provides a view of the inside of the body that is unmatched.  MRI’s show a clear image of the normal tissue in comparison to the brain tumor tissue.

CT Scanning employs x-ray technology to scan tumors.  Bone close to the tumor muddles the clear image produced with CT imaging.  The borders of the tumors are unable to be seen on CT scans.  Details of soft tissues are highly visible on MRI scans over CT scans.

Certain linear accelerator technology can only use CT scanning where as others can blend both MRI and CT images to create a complete and more accurate representation of the tumor.

The Support from a Public Entity

The backing of a public entity is important for medical equipment.  The backing of a public entity means that the equipment has been tested for safety and clinical application.  This ensures that the U.S. SEC standards for financing and ethical standards have been met and that annual reports are obtainable to consumers.  Without public backing technology only need to be approved through the FDA with very little clinical testing.  All that has to be done is that the manufacturer has to state that the equipment is comparable to current technology that already exists within the market.

Acceletronics delivers the best equipment performance and service reliability from Linear Accelerators and CT Scanners across all major brands and models.  Our qualified oncology equipment specialists provide a quality customer experience across the USA with timely field maintenance.  We sell, repair, refurbish, move and finance oncology medical systems check out more at http://www.acceletronics.com.

Radiation Therapies Delivered Using Linear Accelerators

A short expression for Linear Accelerators is Linac.  Radiation is a high powered x-ray that is produced by Linac machines.  These systems are intended to distribute radiation.  If an organization wishes to perform radiosurgery or IMRT (intensity modulated radiation therapy) linear accelerators can be tailored.  To adapt a universal linac system another piece of equipment is often added.

Linac systems can come as either dedicated or non-dedicated machines.

Dedicated linear accelerator equipment includes extra machines that are connected to the radiation couch to perform advanced level treatments.  This is the ideal process to execute a higher level of radiation therapy.

Non-dedicated linac equipment is utilized for more standard radiation treatments.  These machines are not able to obtain the accuracy and precision of dedicated linear accelerators.  For more general radiation therapy this process is used.

Radiosurgery and radiation therapy are both procedures that can be completed using linear accelerator machines.

Radiosurgery is often completed by a radiation oncologist and neurosurgeon in one surgical process.  The process usually is completed in one day following a specific formula that includes immobilization, scans, plans and the actual procedure.   This course of action includes giving radiation in a single dose.  The dose that the tumor is given includes more radiation then it would receive with radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy gives tumors less radiation over a period of time.  The radiation is distributed to a larger area that includes healthy areas.  Treatment usually is done over the course of two to five sessions.

Many professionals argue that radiation therapy offers a more permanent result and fewer side effects then radiosurgery.  The argument is that a smaller dose of radiation delivered over a course of time, instead of one large dose given in one dose, results in greater control of the tumor resulting in better outcomes than are found in radiosurgery.  It is believed that multiple treatments cause less damage to the tissue surrounding the tumor even thought the total amount of radiation is more than the dose given in radiosurgery.  Larger doses of radiation given in a single treatment may permit the tumor to grow.

Cancers in the body and larger brain are more properly targeted using the linac technology that cannot be treated within the one session of a large dose of radiation that radiosurgery performs.  Cancers within the brain better utilize radiosurgery where one session of radiation offers superior treatment results.  Cancers in the brain does not benefit from multiple radiation doses.  Multiple doses can often mean that there is less control and more permanent side effects.

Acceletronics delivers the best equipment performance and service reliability from Linear Accelerators and CT Scanners across all major brands and models.  Our qualified oncology equipment specialists provide a quality customer experience across the USA with timely field maintenance.  We sell, repair, refurbish, move and finance oncology medical systems check out more at http://www.acceletronics.com.