Radiation therapy has long been a pillar of cancer care. Advances have made it more effective with fewer side effects. At the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, we offer:
- Nationally known radiation therapy experts who work with your full cancer team to give you outstanding care.
- Doctors who continually research how to provide the best results with the least amount of radiation.
- Detailed treatment planning and follow-up so you know exactly what to expect.
- The latest technology to safely and accurately deliver radiation.
- Innovative techniques to precisely target cancer and spare healthy tissue.
What is radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams such as X-rays or electrons to destroy cancer cells. After radiation exposure, cancer cells can’t grow or spread. Normal cells can recover from radiation, repairing themselves over time.
Your care team may use radiation alone or combined with surgery or medication such as chemotherapy. Radiation has been a treatment option for cancer for more than 100 years. Recent advances have made it safer and more precise than ever.
Radiation may be used to:
- Shrink tumors before surgery.
- Kill cancer cells that remain after surgery.
- Eliminate tumors that have not spread.
- Ease pain or other symptoms by reducing tumor size.
Radiation therapy schedule
Your treatment schedule will depend on the type and stage of your cancer. Most people have radiation therapy five days a week. Most cancers need to be treated for five to eight weeks.
Radiation therapy types
External: Radiation therapy delivered from a machine outside your body is called external beam radiation.
Internal: Radiation therapy from material placed inside your body is called brachytherapy or internal radiation.
Intraoperative: Radiation therapy delivered during surgery is called intraoperative radiation therapy, or IORT for short.
These broad categories include many types of radiation therapy and ways to deliver it. At OHSU, we specialize in treatments that zero in on cancer while avoiding healthy tissue.
Radiation therapy technology
We use the most advanced technology to make radiation treatment as effective as possible. If you receive care at the Tuality/OHSU Cancer Center in Hillsboro, your team may show you a 3D simulation of your treatment.
Expertise: Your care will be led by radiation oncologists, doctors who specialize in radiation therapy for cancer. Our specialists are dedicated to providing the safest, most effective radiation treatment and care. They are also well-known researchers who develop new treatments and train radiation oncologists around the world.
Team-based approach: Our experts meet regularly to discuss each patient, so you benefit from the entire team’s expertise. Your care team also includes:
- Medical physicists to safely plan treatment.
- Certified dosimetrists to calculate your ideal dose.
- Radiation therapists, cancer nurses and technicians.
Advanced technology: U.S. News & World Report gives OHSU its highest rating for technology, including our radiation therapy tools. For example, sophisticated imaging systems allow us to precisely match radiation to the shape and location of your tumor.
Comprehensive care: At your first visit, our team will spend up to two hours going over treatment options and side effects. Your next visit involves detailed planning to find the best way to send radiation to your tumor. Once you start treatment, you will see your radiation oncologist once a week to monitor your progress.
Commitment to research: The Knight Cancer Institute, as part of Oregon’s only academic health center, is dedicated to finding better ways to treat cancer. We translate our findings into patient care as quickly as possible.
Innovative techniques: Our team has the knowledge and expertise to tailor treatment to your needs. For prostate cancer treatment, we use Calypso technology, also called GPS for the body, to adjust radiation in real time based on the prostate’s position. For lung, liver and pancreatic cancer treatment, we offer stereotactic radiation therapy. This delivers a high dose of radiation over fewer treatments.
Support services: When you seek care from the Knight Cancer Institute you benefit from the full menu of OHSU resources, including:
- Radiation Therapy to Treat Cancer, National Cancer Institute
- Radiation Therapy, American Cancer Society
- RT Answers; Answers to Your Radiation Therapy Questions, American Society for Radiation Oncology
- Understanding Radiation Therapy, Cancer.Net
- Radiation Therapy and You (downloadable booklet), National Cancer Institute