A history of expertise
Radiation has been used to treat cancer conditions since the late 1890s. In the past 50 years our knowledge of how best to use radiation has vastly improved. In the past 10 years we have made huge improvements in our ability to deliver high-dose radiation with tremendous accuracy. We can now image cancer with X-rays, CT (computed tomography) scans, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), PET (positron emission tomography) and nuclear medicine scans and this has led to improvements in staging (assessing the extent of the tumour) and tumour localisation (identifying the exact site of the tumour). Radiation Oncology Associates (ROA) centres employ the most modern equipment available and all pieces of equipment regularly undergo major upgrades and replacement programs. The use of the latest radiation oncology machines, such as high energy linear accelerators, means we can now delineate the cancerous area seen on scans with greater accuracy and speed of treatment delivery. We can also reduce the amount of radiation that affects the normal organs, so there’s less chance of side effects.
What happens during radiation therapy?
High energy X-rays are delivered (usually daily from Monday to Friday) over a period ranging from one day to seven weeks. The length of treatment depends on the part of the body being treated, whether the aim of the treatment is for cure or temporary relief of symptoms, and the total dose being prescribed. Usually the treatment takes only seconds or a few minutes, but each visit (or fraction) may take up to 15-30 minutes daily, due to the extensive quality assurance programs we have in place to ensure that the radiation is positioned and delivered accurately each day. We do not routinely treat over weekends. This is to allow the treated area to recover from the side effects of radiation and also to allow you to have a break to alleviate any tiredness you may feel as a result of the treatment. Treatment given daily, seven days a week, has been tried but the results show an increased rate of damage to normal tissue and quite marked tiredness and side effects. The daily treatment is painless, but side effects may build up over time and are often site-specific, varying with the part of the body being treated.
When is radiation treatment needed?
Radiation treatment for cancer may be given:
- to cure cancer by radiation alone
- in combination with surgery, to cure or control cancer
- to relieve symptoms and offer palliation. Some cancers may not be curable or may be too advanced. Here, radiation is often used to ease discomfort and distressing symptoms and to improve quality of life for the person with cancer (palliative therapy).
A clinical brief has been prepared announcing the recent installation of RapidArc technology at the Mater Hospital, Sydney, NSW: