External Beam Radiation Therapy

Used to treat patients in Casper, WY and beyond

What is external beam radiation therapy?

External beam radiation therapy describes a variety of therapies, including Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT), Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy, and 3D Conformal Radiation Therapy (3D CRT). These therapies all utilize beams of radiation to target the tumor and stop the growth of cancer cells, and are administrated via a machine called a linear accelerator.

How does external beam radiation work to treat cancer?

Radiation beams create small breaks in the DNA in cancer cells. These breaks damage the DNA, hindering the cells’ ability to divide. If the cells cannot divide, the tumor cannot grow, and eventually the cells die and are removed by the patient’s immune system.

Which types of cancer can be treated with external beam radiation therapy?

  • Head and neck cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Gynecologic cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Brain tumors
  • Gynecologic cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Spinal tumors

What is the treatment process like?

Your first radiation therapy session will be a simulation and does not involve an actual treatment. We will use imaging scans, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan, a magnetic resonance image (MRI), or an x-ray, to direct the radiation beam to target the tumor.

If you have a tumor in the head or neck area, you will be fitted for a thermoplastic mask. The mask will be used during radiation treatments to gently keep your head in place.

Each session of actual therapy is quick and painless, lasting about 15 minutes. Patients usually have treatment sessions five times per week, Monday through Friday for the duration of their treatment.

How long is treatment?

The length of treatment depends on the type of external beam radiation therapy used and other factors such as the progression of the tumor. On average, treatment lasts 4-8 weeks. In certain cases the treatments can be delivered in one to three fractions.

What are the side effects associated with external beam radiation therapy?

Generally, the side effects of radiation therapy are mild. Side effects may vary depending on the specific area receiving radiation and may include temporary:

  • Fatigue
  • Skin irritation
  • Loss of appetite

Side effects usually peak within the second or third week of treatment. Patients experiencing discomfort should communicate any questions or concerns to the treatment team. Most of the side effects can be managed through medications or changes in diet.

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