Receive Radiation Therapy in Williamsport, PA
Radiation in the treatment of cancer differs from chemotherapy in that it is a local treatment, affecting cancer cells only in the area being treated.
At the Cancer Centers at UPMC, we use the latest techniques to minimize damage to healthy cells. Radiation therapy has been used for over 100 years; external beam radiation therapy is the main method for giving radiation therapy. At UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we also offer more advanced options for cancers and diseases that require it.
To learn more about radiation therapy in Williamsport, PA, Find a Provider at UPMC.
What is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy, sometimes called radiotherapy, uses different types of radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer and other diseases. Radiation oncologists use radiation to cure cancer, stop a tumor from growing or relieve symptoms, such as pain.
Radiation therapy works by damaging cells. Cancer cells are different from regular cells. They grow very quickly and are fragile, meaning they can be treated effectively by radiation therapy. Normal cells are also affected by radiation, but they are able to repair themselves in a way that cancer cells cannot.
Types of Radiation Therapy
Depending on your type of cancer, one of the radiation therapy options available at UPMC is usually suggested. Your radiation oncologist will go over all of the options with you.
External Beam Radiation Therapy
Similar to an X-ray, external beam radiation therapy is delivered from a machine that doesn't touch your skin. Your doctor will direct the radiation beams to the tumor inside your body to destroy it.
A series of daily outpatient treatments over several weeks deliver radiation to the cancerous area. This type of radiation is usually suggested after surgery or in lieu of surgery.
There are different types of external radiation:
- 3D conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT)
- Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
- Image guided radiation therapy (IGRT)
- Stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT)
Precise radiation beams directed by detailed imaging technology deliver radiation treatments to the brain, lungs, head and neck and other areas on the body where a very small tumor is present. This may be performed in a single treatment or in several treatments over time. Because of the unprecedented accuracy provided through stereotactic radiation, small tumors close to critical non-cancerous organs can be treated with minimal radiation exposure to those organs.
UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Williamsport uses a state-of-the-art Edge™ radiosurgery system, a machine optimized to deliver stereotactic radiosurgery. The Edge™ uses photons – also known as x-rays – to treat tumors throughout the body including the brain, spine, prostate, and lungs. The Edge™ can be used to treat very small lesions quickly and with unprecedented precision, also compensating for any movements a patient may make during treatment. During treatment with Edge™, patients lie comfortably for only a few minutes while the machine delivers precisely targeted radiotherapy in as few as one to five treatments. Because the procedure is so quick and noninvasive, many patients are able to go right back to daily activities after each treatment.
Internal Radiation Therapy (Brachytherapy)
Also known as brachytherapy, internal radiation therapy uses radioactive pellets inserted via a catheter placed directly into the tumor or adjacent body cavity to precisely apply a higher dose of radiation to the specific area. Our radiation oncologists offer high-dose brachytherapy for partial breast irradiation using a balloon to target tumors in the breast, as well as for certain gynecological procedures.
The treatment, which is performed on an outpatient basis, allows highly localized doses of radiation to be delivered to the tumor quickly and without exposing either the patient’s family or hospital staff to the radiation.
Customized Radiation Treatment
Each patient receives a treatment plan specific to their condition and needs. Your radiation oncologist will walk you through every step of the process.
You will meet with your radiation oncologist who will evaluate your individual need for radiation therapy. This first visit usually lasts about 90 minutes. Together, we will decide on the best plan for you.
The radiation oncologist will perform a simulation during this visit. This means that your oncologist will develop a unique process for your daily treatment. He or she may mark small dots on your skin to target the treatment area. An immobilization cast or mask may be made to help you remain still during treatment. X-rays or CT scans will be taken of the treatment area and your radiation therapist will schedule the next visit. The planning computer and your doctor will set up your treatment plan.
This is the "dry run," a filming of the treatment target area on the treatment machine. No treatment actually occurs during the dry run – only filming of images. The radiation therapist explains the process and places you in the proper position on the treatment table. Then, X-ray images of your treatment area are taken to confirm that they precisely match your treatment plan. Your radiation oncologist views these films while you are on the table. The radiation therapist also checks measurements and your position while you are on the table. This process takes about 45 minutes. The therapist will then schedule you for daily treatments.
Painless daily treatments are similar to the dry run, but they will only take about 10-20 minutes, since the measurements and the doctor review are already done. During the treatment, you are in the room by yourself, but the radiation therapist monitors you from outside. The machine makes a buzzing sound when you are receiving the treatment. The physician will order filming (imaging) as needed for you.
UPMC Hillman Cancer Centers offer excellence in the most advanced types of radiation therapy in Williamsport, PA.