What is radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) is a type of cancer treatment that utilizes high doses of radiation to destroy cancerous cells. Radiation therapy can be delivered from outside the body (external beam radiation therapy) or with radioactive seeds permanently implanted in the body (brachytherapy). External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is delivered through a machine called a linear accelerator. EBRT is the most common type of radiation treatment. At the Austin Center for Radiation Oncology, we do not perform brachytherapy.
Radiation therapy treatment goals
The goal of radiation therapy is to destroy cancer cells with minimal damage to surrounding tissues and organs – such as the bladder, urethra and rectum. High doses of radiation is designed to kill cancer cells by damaging their DNA to prevent them from dividing and spreading. Radiation therapy does not kill cancer cells immediately, but over a period of time. For example, patients with prostate cancer who still have their prostates will receive approximately 45 radiation treatments. Prostate cancer patients who have had their prostates removed receive approximately 39 radiation treatments.
At the Austin Center for Radiation Oncology we treat patients with prostate, testicular, bladder and bone cancers (primarily prostate cancer that has metastasized to the bone). While we treat several types of cancers, we specialize in the treatment of prostate cancer. Since 2009, we have treated over 1,000 men with prostate cancer across Texas.
The physician that specializes in radiation therapy is called a radiation oncologist. During a patient’s initial consultation, the radiation oncologist will do a thorough evaluation of the patient’s cancer diagnosis, medical history, current lab results, imaging, physician notes, and any other pertinent materials. They will also communicate with other physicians involved in the patient’s care to determine the best course of treatment.
The type of radiation therapy delivered depends on many factors including:
- Type of cancer.
- Location of the tumor in the body.
- Size of the tumor.
- Proximity of the tumor to tissue that is sensitive to radiation.
- General health, age and medical history.
- Whether the patient will undergo other types of cancer treatments.