Fractionated radiotherapy, often referred to as “radiotherapy,” destroys a tumor or diseased tissue by bombarding it with targeted beams of radiation. Radiotherapy uses moderate doses of radiation given daily for as many as 30 to 35 treatments. Radiation works by damaging the DNA inside cells and making them unable to divide and reproduce, therefore causing them to die.
By attacking the tumor with multiple treatments of moderate-dose therapy, radiotherapy enhances the biological effect on the tumor while reducing the damaging effects of radiation on the brain, eyes, and other sensitive organs. This benefit can be particularly important in the treatment of children, whose brains are still developing.
The technology used for radiotherapy is a blend of surgical and radiation oncology techniques. Navigation tools of surgery allow specialists to precisely locate the lesion, or tumor. But instead of using a knife, doctors kill tumors with a machine – a linear accelerator – that delivers X-ray beams. The experience is reminiscent of getting an X-ray. There is no discomfort and no bleeding. Treatments typically last less than 20 minutes, and most patients are treated as outpatients.
One technology used for delivering radiotherapy is called 3-D conformal radiation. 3-D conformal radiation uses shaped beams of radiation aimed from multiple different directions, all converging on the tumor. This technology helps spare normal brain tissue and minimizes side effects from treatment. A plastic, custom-made mask is used during treatment to help keep the patient’s head still and in the same position from day to day.
Intensity modulated radiotherapy
As an extension of 3-D conformal radiotherapy, intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), in some situations, can provide superior conformation of the radiation field when compared to 3-D conformal techniques. IMRT modulates the intensity of the radiation beam as it is being delivered and is particularly useful when treating close to very sensitive structures.
Why Fractionated Radiotherapy Doesn’t Hurt
Precision Radiotherapy Center
The Precision Radiotherapy Center in West Chester, Ohio, opened in September 2003 to provide another option for patients with tumors or other neurological disorders. Developed by the Mayfield Clinic and University Radiology Associates, two nationally recognized neuroscience programs affiliated with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Precision Radiotherapy was the region’s first center to offer high-precision radiotherapy/radiosurgery for tumors and other abnormalities both inside and outside the brain.