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Radiation Oncology

Call Shaw Cancer Center at (970) 569-7429 with questions or to schedule an appointment.

Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, uses various forms of radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer and a few other diseases. Radiation therapy works by damaging cancerous cells. After exposure to radiation, normal cells are able to repair; cancer cells cannot.  

Shaw treats cancer with a variety of radiation methods based on the cancer type, location and stage. Shaw's state-of-the-art Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) Linear Accelerator is the most accurate way to deliver Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT) and Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT). Specialized radiation therapies such as Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) give the team at Shaw the ability to provide radiation therapy just as well as anyone else in the country.

Sometimes radiation therapy is the only treatment a patient needs; other times, it is combined with surgery and/or chemotherapy. Types of radiation therapy include: External Beam Therapy and Brachytherapy (more information below). 
Shaw Cancer Center features a state-of-the-art Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) Linear Accelerator. The benefits of this technology include: 
  • Increases our medical team’s ability to locate tumors quickly and precisely before each treatment.
  • Provides the ability to monitor the patient for slight movements and respiration during treatment.
  • Accurately delivers radiation to cancerous tissue with shorter treatment times.
  • Includes additional treatment energies for a more individualized patient treatment plan.
  • Enhances the ability to expose a tumor to the maximum dose of radiation while minimizing radiation to healthy tissues.
External Beam Therapy is delivered using a Linear Accelerator and a variety of treatment planning modalities, specifically 3D Conformal Therapy, Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT), Stereotactic RadioSurgery (SRS), Stereotactic RadioTherapy (SRT), and Stereotactic Body RadioTherapy (SBRT). All of these modalities benefit from Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT). IGRT incorporates kV imaging into therapy procedures by providing high resolution, low dose imaging in the treatment room. This provides clinicians with patient specific imaging techniques that are used to make fast and accurate decisions on the patient position before treatment and can be used for patient monitoring during treatment.
IMRT, or Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy, is a cancer treatment method that delivers doses of radiation directly to cancer cells in a very targeted way, much more precisely than is possible with conventional radiotherapy. IMRT can be used to treat tumors that might have been considered untreatable in the past due to close proximity to vital organs and structures.
With IMRT, the radiation dose is designed to conform to the three-dimensional shape of the tumor by modulating - or controlling - the intensity of the radiation beam to focus a higher radiation dose on the tumor, while minimizing radiation exposure to surrounding normal tissues. Treatment is carefully planned by using 3-D computed tomography (CT) images of the patient, in conjunction with computerized dose calculations that determine the dose intensity pattern which will best conform to the tumor shape while avoiding the specified organs at risk.
IMRT is being used extensively to treat a variety of cancers. It can be used as part of a treatment plan for patients with prostate cancer, head and neck cancer, lung cancer, gynecologic cancers, brain tumors and leukemia.
Brachytherapy (also sometimes called "seed implementation") is a short course of radiation therapy delivered to the patient in a controlled environment over a short period of time, usually a few days. It is most typically used in treatment for breast cancer, gynecologic cancers, and prostate cancer.
In brachytherapy, radioactive "seeds" are carefully placed inside the cancerous tissue, and positioned in a manner that most efficiently encompasses the cancerous region. There are two different kinds of brachytherapy: permanent (LDR) and temporary (HDR).
LDR (permanent)
Low Doserate Brachytherapy (also sometimes called "prostate seed implants") is a course of radiation therapy delivered to the patient in a surgical outpatient procedure. It is primarily used in the treatment of prostate cancer. With permanent implants, the radioactivity of the seeds decays with time (only 1/4 of the radiation remains after 4 months), while the actual seeds permanently stay within the treatment area.
HDR (temporary)
High Doserate Brachytherapy is typically used with many gynecologic, breast, and lung cancers. This form of treatment is delivered by placing a source in an applicator that has been placed (or temporarily implanted) inside the body. The radiation is only present during the treatment sessions and is removed after the calculated period of time, usually 2-10 minutes. This type of treatment course can consist of 2 treatments a day for 5 days or 1-2 treatments per week for 2-3 weeks, depending on the area of treatment.
Brachytherapy has now been used for more than a century, and has been proven to be very effective and safe. Many times, it is a good alternative to the surgical removal of the prostate, breast or cervix, while at the same time, reducing the risk of certain long-term side effects.
For additional information, visit the American Brachytherapy Society.

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