Radiation oncology - also called radiation therapy - uses high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells while sparing the surrounding normal tissue. Radiation therapy may be used alone, or combined with other cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery. It may be used to treat cancer as well as to ease symptoms of the disease and its treatment. About two-thirds of patients with cancer will receive radiation therapy at some point in the course of their illness.
The MMC Cancer Institute's Radiation Oncology Department meets stringent national standards for quality, safety and technical excellence, earning accreditation from the American College of Radiology since 2006. Our patients have access to the latest, most effective treatment options proven to deliver the best possible outcomes.
Our team of board-certified radiation oncologists gives patients a depth of specialized knowledge and experience. We hold weekly multidisciplinary tumor board conferences for lung, breast, prostate and other site-specific cancers. At these conferences, all the specialists involved in evaluating and treating that type of cancer, including medical oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, radiologists, and radiation oncologists review cases and apply their combined expertise to each patient's plan of care.
MMC Cancer Institute is engaged in radiation oncology research, looking at ways to enhance patients' quality of life and alleviate the side effects of cancer treatment. Our radiation oncology team is a member of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), the primary research arm of the American College of Radiology. RTOG is made up of physicians and other researchers from leading academic and community medical facilities around the world, including the MMC Cancer Institute. The RTOG maintains a roster of active studies, which are available to appropriate patients.
Types of Cancer Treated
Many common cancers in children and adults can be effectively treated with radiation therapy. Among these types of cancer are:
- Malignancies of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord)
- Head and neck malignancies, including cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx and larynx
- Thoracic malignancies, including lung and esophageal cancer
- Breast cancer, following lumpectomy or mastectomy
- Gastrointestinal malignancies, including gastric, pancreatic, rectal and anal cancer
- Genitourinary malignancies, including bladder and prostate cancer
- Gynecologic malignancies, including uterine and cervical cancer
- Non-Hodgkins and Hodgkins lymphomas
- Skin cancers, including melanoma
- Soft tissue and bone sarcomas
- Cancer that has spread (metastasis) beyond the original site
Among the advanced radiation oncology treatment techniques available at MMC Cancer Institute are:
- Three-dimensional conformal external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) makes it possible to deliver a higher dose of radiation to a tumor with less damage to the surrounding normal tissue.
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a type of conformal external beam radiation therapy that enables the radiation oncologist to more precisely shape the beam to the tumor and vary the intensity of the beam as it passes near or through non-cancerous tissues.
- Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) is the most advanced form of radiation therapy, providing the best treatment outcomes with fewer, less severe side effects. Incorporating IGRT during radiation treatment couples image-guided accuracy with intensity-modulated precision. The result is improved targeting of cancerous tissue, while sparing nearby healthy tissue.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is a non-invasive method of treating brain tumors without the risks of surgery or a long hospital stay. Despite its name, radiosurgery is not actual surgery, but rather a radiation therapy technique that uses highly precise equipment and three-dimensional computer planning to focus a beam of high-dose x-rays on a brain mass.
- High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy is a technique that delivers a higher dose of radiation in a shorter period of time. This focused approach limits the size of the treatment volume which, in turn, permits the radiation dose to be intensified. This therapy can be used alone or as a boost to standard external beam radiation therapy. MMC was the first hospital in Maine to offer HDR brachytherapy.
- Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation (APBI) is a form of HDR brachytherapy that offers more convenience for appropriate patients diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer by shortening radiation therapy from the standard six to seven weeks of treatment to just one week. This technique uses a type of high-dose rate radiation therapy implant. The APBI regimen involves twice-daily outpatient treatments over a five-day period, compared to daily visits over a six-week period for conventional, whole-breast external beam radiation therapy.