Understanding Radiation Oncology
Radiation oncology uses a stream of high-energy particles to destroy cancer cells. The energy carried by the radiation can alter the genetic code of a cell to control how it grows and divides in the body. Other names for radiation oncology include radiation therapy, radiotherapy, X-ray therapy, cobalt therapy, brachytherapy, and irradiation.
How Radiation Therapy Is Given
Radiation oncology is given in several ways. Some patients receive more than one type.
- External radiation treatments are painless, much like an X-ray. It is typically an outpatient procedure, in which a machine directs high-energy rays at the cancer. The treatment takes only a few minutes, but each session can last 10 to 30 minutes because of setup and placement.
- Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive source that is sealed in a small container in the form of a wire, seed or pellet. The source is placed directly into or near the tumor in an implant procedure. Implants may be permanent or temporary.
- Stereotactic radiotherapy or stereotactic radiosurgery dramatically reduces treatment time for radiation therapy on tumors anywhere in the body, and can offer hope for otherwise inoperable tumors. MidMichigan offers an optically-guided radiosurgery system called BodyArray that enables high doses of radiation to reach tumors and lesions while sparing healthy tissue and surrounding organs.
Radiation therapy attacks reproducing cancer cells, but it can also affect normal cells. The damage to normal cells is what causes side effects. Although unpleasant, most side effects are not serious and can be controlled with medication and diet. Side effects may include:
- Skin changes
- Loss of appetite
- Hair loss in the area of treatment only
Preparing for Radiation Oncology
- Bring all your prescription drugs with you to the consultation with your radiation oncologist so the type and strength of your medication can be recorded.
- Wear clothes that are easy to take off. Depending on the treatment area, you may need to undress.
- Your doctor will let you know whether you can drive home from treatment or whether you will need to arrange for someone to drive you.
The MidMichigan Difference
- All physicians are board-certified.
- Although located on different campuses, the staff at all centers are employees of MidMichigan Medical Center - Midland. This means you can trust that the people providing your care meet MidMichigan's training and customer service standards.
- Our radiation oncology centers offer visual and music therapy to help patients relax. Patients may choose to listen to soothing music and look at beautiful artwork or natural surroundings while receiving treatments.
- We offer advanced treatment options including:
All MidMichigan radiation oncology centers offer visual and music therapy to help patients relax during treatments. Some locations may also feature beautiful gardens, indoor murals or the rhythmic motions of tropical fish.