Radiation Oncology at Advocate Condell Medical Center
Radiation oncology, also referred to as radiation therapy or radiotherapy, delivers targeted doses of radiation to cancer cells. Radiation therapy is one of the most common treatment options for a range of cancer diagnoses.
Radiation Therapy Safety and Expertise
The radiation oncology team goes through many precautions to ensure the treatment plan is safe, effective and correctly individualized for each patient. In addition to the expertise of the staff and the state-of-the-art machinery, the Radiation Oncology Center at Condell follows both state and federal government regulations as well as guidelines provided by The American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, The American College of Radiology and The American College of Surgeons.
After diagnosis, your radiation therapy is broken into four stages: consultation, data gathering, planning and the actual treatment delivery.
After you have been diagnosed with cancer, a consultation is arranged with a radiation oncologist to determine if radiation therapy is a suitable form of treatment. The radiation oncologist will then summarize the benefits of radiation therapy and the goal of treatment, whether it is to cure or relieve the symptoms of cancer. The oncologist will work with you to help you understand the options and what to expect.
If radiation therapy is determined to be the best course of action, the radiation oncology team will create a treatment plan. Because each patient is different-from age and physical size to cancer type and stage of growth, exact location-radiation therapy plans are highly individualized.
Data Gathering and Computerized Planning
First the patient is scanned to determine the area needing treatment. Using the state-of-the-art Phillips ACQSim Wide-Bore 3-D Simulator, patient images are captured and provide precise measurements of the cancerous areas inside the body. With this information, the radiation oncologist knows the exact location of the tumor and can determine how the treatment will be delivered.
This data is then transferred to the ADAC Treatment Planning Computer System, which provides three-dimensional imaging that allows members of the radiation oncology team to outline the area of treatment.
With this data, the team can deliver radiation that conforms to the size and shape of the tumor, sparing the normal, healthy tissue. In addition, an on-line portal imaging system is used to verify the accuracy of the treatment area. Once the treatment plan is finalized, the specifications are loaded into the Elekta Precise Linear Accelerator (Linac) computer system, and the patient's course of radiation can begin.
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Length of Treatments
Depending on the type of cancer and the goal of treatment, radiation therapy can extend from one to eight weeks, five visits per week and last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes each visit. Overall treatment time may last only a few minutes, with the bulk of visit time taken to correctly position the patient before treatment is administered. Condell uses Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) to confirm the patients correction position prior to treatment.
What to Expect During Treatment
During treatment, the patient remains very still on the treatment table and is sometimes fitted with a device to increase immobilization to ensure the radiation is targeting the treatment area. With the use of video equipment, the radiation therapist monitors the patient's condition throughout the treatment from the control area. The treatment room is equipped with a microphone so the patient can talk to the therapist at any time during treatment.
When finished, patients are given individualized instructions regarding their treatment. Generally, most patients go about their normal daily routines with minimal alterations. The radiation oncology team will continually monitor the progress of the patient and will determine if any adjustments will need to be made while the patient is on treatment.
Special Treatment Options
The Radiation Oncology Center also provides systemic radiation therapy treatments in the form of Radioactive I-131, which can be given to treat certain types of thyroid cancer. Condell Medical Center is one of a handful of centers in Illinois that is licensed to perform this outpatient procedure.
Following consultation, the therapy is given to appropriate candidates in the form of one to four capsules, which the patient swallows while being overseen by the Radiation Oncologist and a Medical Physicist. After waiting 45 minutes to an hour, the patient may go home. During the next week the patient is instructed regarding contact with others and should experience minimal or no side effects.