Radiation therapy works by damaging the DNA of cancerous cells, causing them to die or reproduce more slowly. A technique that was pioneered more than 100 years ago, the field has advanced tremendously in the past decade. New 3D imaging techniques, coupled with sophisticated planning software, have allowed radiation oncologists to localize and treat even small tumors with unprecedented accuracy.
Carefully Calibrated Care At Mercy, three uniquely qualified specialists - a medical physicist, a dosimetrists and a radiation oncologist - work together to determine the parameters for a course of radiation treatment. The medical physicist determines factors such as beam measurement and proper machine calibration. The dosimetrist helps determine an approach angle and dosage amount that will be most safe and effective. The radiation oncologist is the physician who coordinates the team and oversees the patient throughout the course of radiation treatment.
Surgery without Incision While radiation therapy typically requires many brief incremental treatments, some patients may be candidates for stereotactic radiosurgery (also known as external beam radiation therapy) in which the radiation treatment is delivered in a single procedure.
The experience is similar to having an X-ray taken. A linear accelerator generates multiple highly-focused radiation beams, which pass through the skin and converge on the tumor site from different angles. Individually, the beams are fairly harmless to normal surrounding tissue. Their strength is multiplied at the focal point, where they work together to destroy cancerous cells. It is a painless, bloodless procedure, and extremely valuable for patients with small tumors requiring delicate treatment.
Bodily structures and tumors can shift location due to variation in organ condition or movement while breathing. "Stereotactic" means controlling for these natural movements so that the radiation beam stays focused only on the cancerous cells. Using treatment planning software, your radiation oncology treatment team plans the size, shape and angle of the beams to achieve accuracy down to fractions of millimeters.
Leadership Mercy's radiation oncology team is led by Medical Director, John M. Stevenson, MD. With more than 20 years' experience with stereotactic radiosurgery, Dr. Stevenson is Diplomate of the National Board of Medical Examiners.
For more information on Mercy Cancer Institute's radiation oncology services, to request a referral or to schedule an appointment, call the Mercy Cancer Center at 916.556.3200.