Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. Half of all people with cancer will receive radiation for at least part of their treatment. Only cells in and around the cancer are affected. Your treatment will be planned by a radiation oncologist (a doctor who specializes in radiation therapy).

The most common type of radiation therapy is external beam radiation. Usually it is provided by a machine called a linear accelerator. It can be used to treat large areas of the body. This kind of radiation is usually given in daily doses over several weeks. Planning your radiation therapy is a complex process. The goal is to provide the strongest dose of radiation to the cancer while sparing as much normal tissue as possible. This helps reduce side effects.

Among the new external beam radiation treatments offered at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center is IMRT, or intensity modulated radiation therapy. IMRT delivers high doses of radiation directly to a tumor site while sparing more of the surrounding healthy tissue. Some otherwise untreatable tumors can be treated this way. Another new technique in use at WVCI is IGRT, or image-guided radiation therapy, which uses CT scans to guide treatment.

Other types of radiation therapy include:

  • Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy). In this kind of targeted therapy, radioactive containers are placed in a small area of the body. The placement may be temporary or permanent. Imaging such as x-rays, CT scans or ultrasound are used to guide the doctor in placing the source of radiation in just the right spot.
  • Radiopharmaceuticals. These are drugs containing radioactive materials. The drugs can travel to specific parts of the body to treat cancer. They can be particularly helpful in treating certain kinds of bone, brain and thyroid cancers and lymphomas.

Learn more at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center.