The goal of a radiation oncologist is to use radiation as an instrument to eliminate cancerous tumors in the body. Radiation therapy has been challenged over the years due to the damage they cause healthy tissues the surround the targeted tumor; however, recent developments have worked towards lessening these risks. Below are five changes made in radiation therapy technology that has made these practice safer for patients in the long run.
- Prone-Position Radiation Therapy – Radiation oncologists now have their patients going through breast radiation therapy lay face down. Studies show that this decreases the amount of irritated lung tissue by 87-91%. There is also no reduction the effectiveness of the treatment.
- Spacer Gel – Radiation therapy for patients suffering from prostate cancer involves a dose of radiation to the prostate, again causing precautions for damaging healthy tissue around the affected area. A hydrogel has been developed to decrease the toxicity to the rectum, an area that is directly affected through radiation therapy to the prostate.
- Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) – This continual imaging process allows a computer to take continuous images of a tumor throughout the radiation process. This allows for a more targeted approach that decreases the margin of error rather than a wider spread approach of the affected area. For example, tumors in the lung tend to move during treatment, so rather than targeting the entire lung, a radiation oncologist is able to target a more specific area. This lessens the damage done to healthy tissues in the lung by radiation treatment.
- Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) – This method of therapy is a new process when dealing with more serious cancers in the liver, lung, and spine. This method uses a higher-dose of radiation that can be delivered in fewer sessions. Standard treatment has patients typically going through 30 doses of radiation therapy per day for 6 weeks, while SBRT has patients go through 5 to 6 radiation treatments per week. 3D imaging is used in this process.
- Proton-beam Therapy – This method of radiation therapy uses protons over x-rays to treat cancer. Protons target the tumor using lower radiation doses that are less harmless to the surrounding healthy tissue. This type of surgery is used for harder to reach tumors and as an alternative to chemotherapy. Protons can stop right at the tumor, whereas x-rays travel throughout the body.