The team of physicians, nurses and staff at Comprehensive Cancer Centers offer patients a variety of cancer treatment options including radiation therapy. Radiation therapy may be used to treat cancer, to relieve a cancer patient’s pain or alleviate other symptoms. Patients often wonder, when recommended radiation as a course of treatment, how the therapy works and what to expect during treatment.

Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy radiation to damage the DNA of cancer cells, with the end goal of destroying their ability to divide and grow. Radiation may be delivered internally or externally using machines called linear accelerators or via radioactive sources placed inside the patient on a temporary or permanent basis. Comprehensive Cancer Centers also uses advanced technology including CyberKnife® Radiosurgery, High Dose Rate Brachytherapy (HDR), Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), Image-Guided Radiotherapy (IGRT) and SpaceOAR® hydrogel to deliver highly targeted radiation treatments.

Why Does Comprehensive Use Radiation Therapy for Patients?

Most cancer patients are treated with radiation at some time during their course of treatment. The team at Comprehensive uses radiation therapy because it destroys the cancer cells’ ability to reproduce and the body will naturally get rid of these cells. Radiation is most effective at killing cells that are actively dividing. Cancer cells are more vulnerable to radiation because they divide more rapidly than normal cells and they do not repair this damage as effectively as normal cells.

Preparation for radiation therapy is focused on targeting the radiation dose to the cancer as precisely as possible to minimize side effects and avoid damaging normal cells. Imaging tests may be used to help determine the exact shape and location of your tumor and define its boundaries.

How Does Comprehensive Use Radiation Therapy in Cancer Care?

Your Comprehensive Cancer radiation oncologist may use one or more among the following technologies for treatment:

CyberKnife® Radiosurgery is exclusive to Comprehensive and is the most powerful advancement in cancer treatment ever available in Southern Nevada. Operated by Comprehensive’s own specially trained radiation oncologists, the most experienced radiosurgical team in Southern Nevada, CyberKnife® focuses healing energy on tumors anywhere on the body with precision never before possible. This type of ultra-precise radiotherapy protects the surrounding healthy tissue and if often used to treat brain tumors, lung tumors, liver lesions, prostate cancer, spine tumors and many other hard-to-reach tumor sites.

High Dose Rate Brachytherapy (HDR) uses a radioactive source that is placed inside the tumor site to be treated. Then, a high dose of radiation is given to a limited area, sparing the surrounding normal tissue. HDR brachytherapy lasts only a few minutes in the outpatient setting and causes little discomfort, fewer complications, and a quicker recovery time.

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) uses three-dimensional imaging to deliver varied radiation doses to different areas simultaneously. In some tumor types such as prostate cancer, this technology can deliver higher doses of radiation therapy while reducing the amount of radiation exposure to surround healthy tissue.

Image-Guided Radiotherapy (IGRT) uses ultrasound, a CT scan, or X-rays to capture images of the treatment area before delivering radiation and is often used to treat cancers in organs that move, such as the prostate or lung. The use of the highly precise IGRT treatments result in the surrounding healthy tissue receiving less radiation exposure while also reducing radiotherapy side effects.

SpaceOAR® hydrogel is an option for men who undergo radiation treatment for prostate cancer. It acts as a spacer providing space between the rectum and the prostate, making it much less likely that the rectum is exposed to radiation. It is injected into place prior to the start of radiation treatment. Patients may be awake or asleep under general anesthesia for the procedure. SpaceOAR® hydrogel is not painful, remains stable during radiation therapy and then is gradually absorbed by the body after radiation therapy has been completed.

Comprehensive’s Radiation Therapy Process

After radiation therapy has been ordered, a planning stage occurs. The diagnostic and planning process starts with a simulation scan using a special CT scanner. Intravenous therapy (IV) or oral contrast may be used during this scan. The radiation oncologist then outlines the area to be treated, the tumor, and the areas to be avoided (such as healthy organs). The radiation plan is developed and checked by Comprehensive’s team, which includes dosimetrists, medical physicists and medical oncologists working closely with your radiation oncologist. The radiation plan then undergoes quality and safety checks.  Radiation therapy treatments are carried out on behalf of patients by skilled radiation therapists. The radiation oncologist, along with other members of your cancer care team, including nurses and dietitians, will help manage any side effects throughout the duration of treatment.

Comprehensive Cancer’s Radiation Therapy Techniques

Radiation can damage normal cells so it is important that radiation be targeted to the cancer. An advanced form of three-dimensional (3D) conformal radiation, called intensity modulated radiation therapy, or IMRT, more precisely conforms the dose to the tumors, allowing safer delivery of higher doses of radiation.

Other techniques used by Comprehensive that enable ultra-precise doses of radiation to tumors include CyberKnife®, which focuses healing energy on tumors anywhere on the body with precision never before possible. This type of ultra-precise radiotherapy protects the surrounding healthy tissue and if often used to treat brain tumors, lung tumors, liver lesions, prostate cancer, spine tumors and many other hard-to-reach tumor sites.

Comprehensive Cancer Centers Can Help

Comprehensive’s Radiation Oncology Division earned a three-year term of accreditation from the American College of Radiology, making it the only oncology practice in Southern Nevada to receive the accreditation for seven consecutive three-year terms. The accreditation ensures you receive the highest level of quality care available. Should your treatment plan include radiation therapy, know you’ve made the right choice in Comprehensive Cancer. To schedule an appointment or to learn more, please call 702-952-3350.


The content in this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.