Holidays can be challenging for those receiving cancer treatment. Staying
close to home is what we advocate for at Cody Regional Health’s
Big Horn Basin Cancer Center.
The journey of a cancer patient is complex and certainly can be daunting,
especially during the holidays. For many patients, there is a team of
physicians addressing specific complexities with their cases. Physicians
involved at the outset once the cancer is a suggestion, typically include
a surgeon who may help in providing an initial diagnosis or therapy followed
by either medical oncology and/or radiation oncology as part of a multidisciplinary
team approach to the treatment.
My specialty is Radiation Oncology. Radiation Oncology is historically
a branch of Radiology that uses high energy x-rays to deliver dose to
tissue rather than for generating an image used for diagnosis. X-rays
have been used therapeutically since their discovery in 1895. It causes
damage to the DNA or building blocks of the target tissue taking advantage
of how cancer cells and normal cells repair.
Fortunately, cancer cells repair damage less efficiently than your normal
healthy cells allowing for normal tissue to heal from treatment while
achieving tumor control. Treatment courses may be as short as a single
treatment, but may last as long as seven weeks depending on the diagnosis.
Chemotherapy may be given at the same time as radiation to sensitize the
tumor cells to radiation damage acting in a way that is more effective
than either one alone. This combined method is used for specific tumor
types such as lung, esophagus, pancreatic, colo-rectal, primary brain
cancer, and many others. Radiation can be given alone, in sequence, or
at the same time as other therapies.
At the Big Horn Basin Cancer Center, we utilize modern treatment techniques
to treat both malignant and benign tumors. There are many different approaches
to the delivery of therapeutic radiation with many confusing terms and
acronyms like: teletherapy, 3DCRT, brachytherapy, IMRT, VMAT, SBRT, SRS,
IGRT, SGRT, and many more.
As radiation oncologists, we choose the most appropriate technique to deliver
therapeutic radiation to the target as precisely and accurately as possible.
The process begins after diagnosis has been established with a plan recommended
for radiation therapy by undergoing a simulation or mapping study. This
usually involves a CT scan to create a 3D model of the body and target.
Treatment planning follows leading to the process of delivery.
Typical treatment times are scheduled in 15 minutes with most of that time
being used for alignment and imaging as applicable. The treatment is painless
and lasts much less than 1 minute for a typical treatment. After treatment
is completed, a course of surveillance/follow-up is recommended which
may include imaging and labs as appropriate for the diagnosis. Understanding
the role of each team member in treating cancer is the first step to minimize
some of the confusion that patients experience during their journey.
If you have any questions about our treatment options please don’t
hesitate to get in contact with our team. We wish you and yours a very
happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!