At Palmetto Health Cancer Centers, radiation therapy is a safe, proven treatment that uses penetrating beams of radiation to destroy or damage cancer cells. About half of all cancer patients receive some type of radiation therapy. Radiation therapy may be used alone or combined with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or surgery.
In some cases, radiation treatment results in the complete destruction of a tumor. In other cases, the aim is to shrink the tumor to relieve symptoms.
There are various types of radiation and different ways to deliver the therapy:
External Radiation Includes:
- External Beam Radiation Therapy is the most frequently used form of radiation therapy. External beam radiation delivers radiation from a machine outside the body. Most people receive external radiation therapy over a period of several weeks during outpatient visits.
- Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) is a form of external beam radiation therapy that is used to treat a targeted area without damaging nearby tissues. This radiation therapy uses a computer to control the shape and intensity of the radiation beam to match the shape and size of the tumor and then delivers the beam from different directions. IMRT is an outpatient treatment given daily over several weeks.
- Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) is also a form of external beam radiation therapy that is guided by CT scans to target the tumor. Since tumors can move or shift slightly, both during a treatment session and from one session to another, the exact location is verified daily. IGRT is an outpatient treatment given daily over several weeks.
- Gamma Knife is an alternative to surgery that allows our skilled physicians to selectively destroy brain tumors or blood vessel abnormalities deep within the brain without an incision.
Internal Radiation Includes:
- High-Dose-Rate Brachytherapy (HDR) is a type of internal radiation where the radioactive source is in place only for a few minutes and then removed. This may be repeated several times over a few days to weeks. Brachytherapy is primarily used for breast, gynecological and pulmonary cancers. Usually given as an outpatient procedure, the treatment takes only a few hours using a high-dose-rate brachytherapy machine.
- Seed Implants are a form of internal radiation using permanent seed implants to kill cancer cells. This procedure is particularly useful in early-stage prostate cancer. Many small radioactive seeds are permanently implanted in the prostate, allowing the delivery of radiation over a few weeks to months as they slowly stop giving off radiation.
Palmetto Health provides the most advanced radiation therapies for patients through a partnership with South Carolina Oncology Associates.