Radiation Therapy

Physician PhotoSt. Luke’s MSTI is dedicated to providing state-of-the-art radiation therapy services that take advantage of the great strides that have been made in treating and curing cancer.

We know that treating cancer means more than treating the disease. It means compassion, support, and encouragement for patients and families when cancer touches their lives. That’s why the radiation therapy experts at St. Luke’s MSTI provide not only the latest, most effective medical care, but also the personal, human touch that lets our patients know we’re with them all the way.

What is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy uses high doses of radiation to destroy cancer cells (tumors). Radiation damages the genetic material of cells in the area being treated, leaving the cells unable to continue to grow. Although radiation damages normal cells as well as cancer cells, the normal cells usually can repair themselves and function, while the cancer cells cannot.

Radiation therapy is used for many different types of cancers, such as bladder cancer, endometrial cancer, and prostate cancer.

Custom-tailored Radiotherapy
St. Luke’s MSTI offers a comprehensive range of the latest radiation therapy techniques and equipment in order to provide each patient with the most suitable treatment for his or her unique condition. Some of these include:

Novalis Tx Radiosurgery Linear AcceleratorNovalis Tx Radiosurgery Linear Accelerator
Novalis Tx Radiosurgery™ delivers radiation therapy with pinpoint accuracy, minimizing the risk of harm to surrounding healthy tissue. With highly flexible treatment options personalized for each patient, this technology offers improved patient comfort, shorter treatment times, fewer visits, and fewer side effects.

IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy)
An advanced procedure delivered on a treatment machine called a linear accelerator, IMRT utilizes multiple radiation beams and angles, together with highly complex blocking, to control the intensity of the radiation. The ability to focus a higher dose on the tumor, while reducing the radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissues and critical structures of the body, increases the effectiveness of the radiation and reduces side effects.

IGRT (Image Guided Radiation Therapy)
Equipment attached directly to a linear accelerator allows an x-ray or CT scan to be taken and checked before treatment begins, ensuring that the patient is in exactly the correct position to receive the highly focused radiation.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery
This technique delivers a very precise high dose of radiation to small tumors in the brain.

Bringing Radiotherapy to the Source

Internal radiation therapy brings radioactive materials inside the patient’s body directly to the tumor, allowing for a concentrated dose to a small area. St. Luke’s MSTI is equipped to provide several distinct methods of internal therapy, depending on a patient’s specific conditions or needs. This type of treatment includes radioactive seeds implanted directly into the prostate; and high dose brachytherapy, delivered through catheters, that is used to treat breast, prostate, and gynecological cancers.

Engaging the Brightest Minds
The physicians and staff in St. Luke’s MSTI’s Radiation Oncology Department are carefully selected for their knowledge, skill, and compassion. Their dedication to giving patients the best possible care is supported through ongoing education and training. Our radiation oncologists and committed staff of specially trained experts work together to carefully plan and deliver each patient’s treatment, and manage their care. The devotion of the St. Luke’s Radiation Oncology team is vital to the success of our patients.

Integrative Medicine Programs

For more information, please visit the Radiation Therapy topic in the Healthwise® Knowledgebase .

Frequently Asked Questions
About Radiation

Will radiation therapy make me sterile?
If radiation therapy is given to the ovaries or testes, it may make you permanently sterile. If radiation therapy is given to an area close to the ovaries or testes, it may make you sterile temporarily. If this is the case, the time period in which you are sterile will depend on your age and the radiation dose received by the ovaries or testes. Radiation therapy to an area of your body that is far away from your ovaries or testes should have no effect on your fertility. Your radiation oncologist will discuss this with you and advise you on the risks of sterility in your situation.

Should I avoid sexual intercourse while receiving radiation therapy?
With radiation therapy to the pelvic region, it may be necessary to avoid sexual intercourse for a short while. Your radiation oncologist will discuss this with you and advise you with regard to your specific situation.

How long will I receive radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy is given for a period of time determined by your doctor (radiation oncologist) and may be from one day up to ten weeks, depending upon the type of cancer you have. The radiation oncologist will determine this and discuss it with you.

Can I schedule my treatments and other appointments at times that are most convenient to me?
We will try to schedule your appointments and treatments at a time that suits you best. It may be that someone else is being treated at the time you would like, and you will have to wait until they finish their treatments before you can be scheduled at that time.

Will I receive my treatment the same time every day?
Your treatment will be given at the same time every day, if possible. However, sometimes maintenance or repairs are done on the machines, and you may be asked to come for your treatment at a different time. As soon as the maintenance or repairs are done, you will be treated at your normal time again.

Will the same therapists give me my treatment every day?
Usually, unless they are sick or go on vacation during the course of your treatments. The therapists usually work on a machine for several months at a time, before they move to a different machine. If one of the therapists does move to a different machine during your treatments, the other therapist and a new therapist will continue with your treatments. Your chart is designed to ensure that your treatment is given accurately by any of the therapists.

How many treatments will I have?
The number of treatments you will have will depend on what type of cancer you have and where the cancer is located in your body. Your doctor will determine the appropriate number of treatments for you and discuss the whole treatment plan with you before you begin your treatment. The number of treatments may also depend on how your cancer responds to the treatments.

Can I take a bath or shower while I am receiving my radiation treatments?
You can shower or take a bath, but you should be careful not to wash off the marks that the therapists have put on your skin. You should keep the marks on your skin as dry as possible. Don’t soak the area and don't let the area be in the direct stream of the shower. If you do get the marked area wet, just pat it dry with a towel, don’t rub it.

When can I expect to experience any side effects?
The kind of side effects you have will depend on the type of cancer you have, where your cancer is and how much radiation it takes to destroy the cancer. Your doctor will tell you what to expect from your specific treatment program. In some cases there may never be any noticeable side effects.

How do I know if the treatments are working? Do you do tests to monitor the progress?
In most cases you will not know how well the treatments are working until some time after your are finished with your treatments. Sometimes it is possible to see on an X-ray or a CAT scan if the tumor is shrinking. If you are having pain or other symptoms from your cancer, you may notice a decrease in pain or symptoms after you have received some treatments. Your doctor will tell you what to expect in your specific case.

Do the "port films" or "check films" show how my cancer is progressing?
It is usually not possible to see your cancer on the "port films" or "check films," but the films can show if there are changes needed in the treatment setup.

How much do the treatments cost?
The cost of your treatments depends on how simple or complex your treatment plan is and how many treatments you will have. We can arrange for you to talk to a financial counselor who will look at the doctor's treatment plan for you and go over the cost of your whole treatment plan.

For more information on radiation therapy, please visit RT Answers, a web site created for patients and their families by the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) to explain how radiation therapy is used to treat cancer safely and effectively.

  • St. Luke's Mountain States Tumor Institute