Radiation oncology encompasses a variety of procedures for the treatment of most types of cancer. It can be used alone or in conjunction with other types of treatment. JACC offers some of the most advanced treatment options in the country.
- Associated with four board-certified radiation oncologists
- Paul Anderson, M.D., 806-725-8008
- Thomas Neumann, M.D., 806-725-8008
- Lillian Chou, M.D., 806-793-1406
- Five certified radiation therapists with 38 years’ combined experience
- Three radiation oncology nurses
- Two board-certified physicists
- Two dosimetrists
- Five oncology pharmacists
External Beam Radiation Therapy
The latest advancements in radiation therapy include image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) to achieve optimal precision. Traditionally, radiation therapists used only markers and tattoos to guide them, assisted with weekly imaging. IGRT allows fast, accurate imaging before every treatment. This is important because even eating a meal before a treatment can cause a tumor to shift by a few millimeters, which can cause the radiation therapy to lose some of its precision. The immediate digital feedback means the patient spends less time at each appointment.
When radiation therapy is indicated, you will see a radiation oncologist, who will discuss treatment options with you. Should you and your physician decide on external beam radiation, you’ll schedule an appointment for simulation, which will allow your treatment to be mapped by your radiation oncologist, physicist, and dosimetrist. In the simulation appointment, which will take about an hour, you’ll lie on a CT scan table so that images of your anatomy can be taken. The therapist will mark the areas to be treated with small, permanent specks.
After your simulation, the dosimetrist, physicist, and radiation oncologist use a computer system to plan the radiation dose, treatment technique, and number of treatments you’ll need. Depending on the complexity of your treatment, you will start your actual radiation therapy two to five days later. At each appointment, you’ll lie down on a linear accelerator, which can be moved to various positions while your body remains in place. Breast-cancer patients will change into a gown, but most other patients can remain in their own clothes as long as they can easily expose the treatment area. After you’re positioned on the table, an image will be taken to verify the treatment field, and you’ll remain still throughout the treatment. The entire appointment takes 15 to 20 minutes, with only a few minutes for the actual therapy itself.
During the treatment, you will relax comfortably and will feel no discomfort from the treatment itself. The radiation therapist will leave the room, but you’ll be able to communicate with him or her and ask any questions you might have.
External beam therapy typically is administered five times a week for three to nine weeks.
Brachytherapy is a high-dose rate (HDR) therapy that allows some patients to receive treatments over a shorter length of time, such as twice a day for one week.
This treatment uses a man-made source of radiation that emits the radiation from inside of the patient. The source is a tiny device located on the end of a cable the size of a hair and housed in a tiny unit surrounded by lead to keep the radiation controlled. The cable goes from the housing unit through a straw-like catheter that has been implanted into the patient’s tissue and stays implanted throughout the course of the treatment. Breast-cancer patients, for instance, are treated for about five days. During that time, the catheters are taped to the patient and kept dry.
For prostate and some gynecological patients, the treatment is a little different. Rather than a flexible catheter, small, rigid needles are implanted into the prostate through the perineum and then fixed to the groin with sutures. Because of the sensitivity of the area, the patient is admitted overnight and given three treatments five to six hours apart, usually late afternoon, the next morning, and again that afternoon. The needles are removed for the patient to go home, and the process is repeated again in about two months. Because JACC is one of only a few treatment centers to offer brachytherapy for prostate cancer, patients come from all over the country to receive it.
Brachytherapy can be administered for cancers of the esophagus, lung, tongue, stomach, anus, cervix, uterus, and vaginal wall.
As with all care at JACC, your care will be managed by a team. A patient navigator will stay with you throughout your treatment and will meet with the radiation oncologist, radiation therapist, nurse, and social worker to coordinate your care. After your treatment, your radiation oncologist will follow up with you periodically during the first year after your treatment and then annually.