Radiation Oncology

Treatment

Mercy’s radiation oncologists are highly trained and experienced in the latest tools and techniques to help you achieve the best possible outcome. As part of your cancer treatment team, they provide individualized treatment plans based on your specific needs. 

What is Radiation Therapy?

Radiation is a form of energy that exists as waves or charged particles. These include x-rays, gamma rays, electron beams and protons. Radiation therapy is a treatment that uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. It’s effective at targeting and destroying cancer cells in specific areas of the body.

More than half of all cancer patients undergo radiation treatments to:

  • Destroy small, early-stage tumors
  • Shrink tumors before surgery
  • Stop lingering cancer cells from growing after surgery or other treatments
  • Relieve symptoms of advanced cancer through “palliative radiation,” which shrinks tumors that cause pain, breathing difficulty and other problems
  • Help prevent cancer from returning
  • Receive radiation therapy combined with other treatments to keep cancer cells and tumors from growing
  • Shrink a tumor before another treatment
  • Stop remaining cancer cells from growing after another treatment
  • Receive primary cancer treatment through radiation therapy

Radiation Therapy Services

At Mercy, we offer a full spectrum of advanced radiation therapy services to treat all types of cancer. Precise imaging and innovative technologies allow us to provide more targeted treatments that help preserve your quality of life.

Types of Radiotherapy

The type of radiotherapy also called radiation therapy, used for cancer treatment depends on several factors, including tumor size and location, what organs are near the tumor and whether other cancer treatments are needed.

The two main types of radiation therapy are external beam and internal.

External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT)

External beam radiation uses a machine outside the body to deliver radiation to the tumor. It’s the most common radiation therapy and is used to treat a wide range of cancers, including brain, spine, lung, breast, prostate, bladder, liver and bone cancer.

Mercy offers several different types of external beam radiation therapy including:

Internal Radiation Therapy

Internal radiation therapy, also known as brachytherapy, uses a radioactive implant. It’s placed inside your body, in or near the tumor. Brachytherapy is often used to treat head and neck cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, endometrial cancer, prostate cancer and eye cancer.

Systemic Radiation Therapy

Systemic radiation therapy uses radioactive drugs to treat certain types of cancer, including thyroid, bone and prostate cancer. A radioactive substance is swallowed or injected into the body and travels through the blood, locating and killing tumor cells.

How Does Radiation Therapy Work?

Targeted forms of radiation are used to kill cancer cells, shrink tumors and relieve cancer-related symptoms. By focusing directly on the tumor, radiation oncologists can minimize damage to healthy tissues and reduce side effects.

How is Radiation Used with Other Cancer Treatments?

Radiation therapy is often used with other cancer treatments, such as cancer surgerychemotherapy and immunotherapy. Receiving radiation therapy and chemotherapy at the same time is sometimes called "chemoradiation." Radiation therapy may be given before, during or after these other treatments to improve the chances of success. The timing of the radiation therapy depends on the type of cancer being treated and whether the goal is treating cancer or easing symptoms.

Radiation Therapy Risks

Oncologists recommend radiation therapy when they believe the benefits outweigh the risks. Your radiation oncology team will carefully plan your treatments to ensure they’re safe and effective. If you have questions or concerns about radiation therapy, talk with your Mercy cancer care team. Like any medical treatment, radiation therapy carries potential risks, including:

  • New cancers developing due to radiation exposure, although the risk of cancer returning without radiation is usually much higher
  • Possibility of the body giving off tiny amounts of radiation after certain therapies; your doctor will tell you if you should limit contact with pregnant women or young children
  • Radiation necrosis – the death of healthy tissue caused by radiation therapy
  • Damage to healthy cells near a tumor, although many cells heal and continue to function after treatment ends
  • Harm to unborn babies, which is why women must avoid becoming pregnant during treatment
  • Temporary side effects, such as fatigue, loss of appetite, hair loss in the treatment area or skin changes (like redness, itching or peeling)

Coordinated Radiation Oncology Care

At Mercy, your radiation oncologist will plan, prescribe and supervise your care. They’re supported by a team that includes physician assistants, registered radiation therapists, nurses, medical physicists, dosimetrists and other support staff. Our team approach helps us provide you with complete care and services on your cancer journey.

Advantages of Mercy’s Oncology Care

  • Leading-edge technologies – Mercy uses the latest treatments and tools to help you achieve the best possible outcome.
  • Personalized treatment plans – Our radiation oncologists take the time to get to know you and create a treatment plan that’s right for you.
  • Coordinated care -- Our radiation oncology team works closely with your medical oncologist and referring physician to provide the best care and most effective treatments.
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