Staying close to home during the holidays is important to cancer patients.

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!

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