Types of Radiation Therapy

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Baystate Health offers many types of radiation therapy, so you can receive exceptional care close to home. We are a nationally recognized radiation oncology program delivering leading treatments with outstanding results.

Our offerings include sophisticated options, some of which you might not expect to find in a community setting such as ours. These therapies are more precise, gentler on your body and may reduce the need for additional treatments. And our careful attention at every turn helps you have a pleasant experience.

Radiation Therapy at Baystate Health: Why Choose Us?

We offer a broad range of radiation therapy options, even advanced treatments, so you won’t have to travel far to start healing. You receive services from trusted radiation oncologists with a national reputation. Our team includes experts in radiation therapy for breast, prostate and lung cancer, lymphomas, as well as brain tumors. In addition to these and many other cancerous conditions, we also treat noncancerous diseases

Highlights of our program include:

  • Innovative options: High-dose-rate brachytherapy uses a robotically controlled radioactive source to deliver treatment directly to the tumor. We apply the radiation inside the body, or sometimes on the surface. Baystate Health is among a select few programs worldwide using custom applicators. We design and create them in-house with a 3D printer. The custom applicator helps us deliver treatment with a high degree of accuracy.
  • Pediatric services: We are the only program in western Massachusetts offering pediatric radiation therapy services. Our radiation oncologists are experienced in tailoring services for children and take extra steps to make the planning process less scary. We use medicine (anesthesia) to put children to sleep when necessary for a safer, more comfortable experience.
  • Precise care: For cancers in areas that move due to breathing or involuntary movements, we offer image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT). We accurately target treatment areas using 3D real-time imaging. Special software stops and starts treatments so that you only receive radiation when the tumor is in the correct position.
  • Patient education: It’s natural to be nervous about radiation therapy, which is why we give you the information you need to feel prepared. We start by explaining treatment recommendations in ways that are easier to understand. You also learn about side effects, options for relief and how to reach us between appointments. Find out what to expect.

Types of Radiation Therapy We Offer

The type of radiation therapy that’s best for you depends on your diagnosis, medical history and personal preferences. Radiation oncologists work alongside other Baystate Health specialists as part of a closely knit team to determine how radiation therapy fits into your overall treatment plan. This approach helps you receive treatments in a timely manner.

Our knowledge and use of the most current treatment approaches ensures you receive the best treatment for your needs. Many patients achieve excellent results in fewer sessions compared to treatments offered just a few years ago.

We provide these forms of radiation therapy:

  • 3D conformal radiation therapy uses special software and imaging technology to tailor radiation beams to the precise shape of the tumor.
  • Brachytherapy involves a robotically controlled high-dose-rate, radioactive source that we place with precision. We use this treatment for cervical cancer, endometrial cancer and certain types of skin cancer.
  • Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) uses real-time imaging and software to ensure tumors are in the right position throughout treatment. We often use it for lung cancer as well as pancreatic and other cancers in the digestive system.
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) combines multiple radiation beams to deliver a high dose of radiation. The beams vary in intensity to fit the exact shape of the tumor. We often use IMRT for cancers near other organs, including prostate, breast and gastrointestinal cancers.
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery uses special equipment to deliver a large radiation dose in a single treatment. We offer it for cancerous and noncancerous brain and spine conditions.
  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) also uses special equipment to deliver a high radiation dose. We use it for certain early-stage tumors as well as ones that spread to the liver or lungs.
  • Respiratory gating is a technique that allows us to monitor tumor and internal organ movement that occurs while breathing. We use this information to significantly reduce the risk of side effects. We often use respiratory gating for left-sided breast cancers and other cancers in the chest.

Our Radiation Therapy Team

Our radiation therapy team works together to carefully plan your treatment and ensure your comfort.

The team includes:

  • Radiation oncologist: These doctors prescribe the specific type and dose of radiation therapy that’s right for you. A radiation oncologist is always on-site during treatments, so they’re easy to reach if there are questions. Your radiation oncologist also sees you every week during treatment to review progress and answer your questions.
  • Medical radiation physicist: Our physicists regularly perform quality checks on the equipment to ensure it’s working correctly.
  • Dosimetrist: These experts work with radiation oncologists to calculate the right dose of radiation for your needs.
  • Radiation therapist: Our highly trained therapists deliver your treatments. They keep detailed records of your care and check the machines before each session.
  • Radiation oncology nurse: Our nurses have special training in working with radiation therapy patients. They help you cope with side effects and monitor treatment progress.

Find Out More About Our Radiation Therapy Services

To learn more about our services or make an appointment

Two Main Types of Radiation Therapy

External Beam Radiation

Tumors come in all shapes and sizes. At the Baystate Regional Cancer Program, we are dedicated to providing you outstanding radiation treatment, no matter what type of tumor you face.

Similar to a diagnostic x-ray, but much more powerful, external beam radiation uses radiation from a source outside your body. The precise nature of this type of radiation allows for the highest level of accuracy during your treatment.

Our radiation oncology experts offer the most advanced external beam radiation options, including:

  • Image-Guided Radiation Therapy
  • 3D Conformal Radiation Therapy
  • Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy
  • Stereotactic Radiosurgery
  • Stereotactic Radiotherapy
Internal Beam Radiation (Brachytherapy)

In some types of cancer, the tumors are more difficult to treat using external radiation. Cancer treatment at the Baystate Regional Cancer Program includes internal beam radiation therapy, or brachytherapy, as a more effective way to target these tumors. This involves placing the radiation source inside the body, next to or in the tumor.

Our radiation oncology experts offer the most advanced internal beam radiation options, including:

High-Dose Rate (HDR) Implants

If you are receiving high-dose rate implants, you can expect:

  • Right before your treatment, an applicator will be put in place to help administer the radiation.
  • The radiation source will be placed internally for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, and then removed.
  • You will need to return for treatment once a week for two to five weeks. Your individual schedule will depend on your type of cancer.

Permanent Interstitial Implants

If you are receiving permanent interstitial implants, you can expect:

  • You will receive anesthesia to keep you pain free while the radiation seeds are implanted.
  • Once the radiation seeds are in place, they will stay in your body.
  • The amount of radiation emitted from the seeds will decrease each day, eventually ending.
  • You should limit your time around other people when the radiation is first put in place, especially children and pregnant women.
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