Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, uses various forms of radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer and a few other diseases. Radiation therapy works by damaging cancerous cells. After exposure to radiation, normal cells are able to repair; cancer cells cannot. Sometimes radiation therapy is the only treatment a patient needs; other times, it is combined with surgery and/or chemotherapy. Types of radiation therapy include: External Beam Therapy and Brachytherapy. 

Radiation Therapy

Shaw Regional Cancer Center features a state-of-the-art Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) Linear Accelerator. The benefits of this technology include:
 
  • Increases our medical team’s ability to locate tumors quickly and precisely before each treatment.
  • Provides the ability to monitor the patient for slight movements and respiration during treatment.
  • Accurately delivers radiation to cancerous tissue with shorter treatment times.
  • Includes additional treatment energies for a more individualized patient treatment plan.
  • Enhances the ability to expose a tumor to the maximum dose of radiation while minimizing radiation to healthy tissues.
 
External Beam Therapy is delivered using a Linear Accelerator and a variety of treatment planning modalities, specifically 3D Conformal Therapy, Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT), Stereotactic RadioSurgery (SRS), Stereotactic RadioTherapy (SRT), and Stereotactic Body RadioTherapy (SBRT). All of these modalities benefit from Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT). IGRT incorporates kV imaging into therapy procedures by providing high resolution, low dose imaging in the treatment room. This provides clinicians with patient specific imaging techniques that are used to make fast and accurate decisions on the patient position before treatment and can be used for patient monitoring during treatment.
IMRT
 
IMRT, or Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy, is a cancer treatment method that delivers doses of radiation directly to cancer cells in a very targeted way, much more precisely than is possible with conventional radiotherapy. IMRT can be used to treat tumors that might have been considered untreatable in the past due to close proximity to vital organs and structures.
 
With IMRT, the radiation dose is designed to conform to the three-dimensional shape of the tumor by modulating - or controlling - the intensity of the radiation beam to focus a higher radiation dose on the tumor, while minimizing radiation exposure to surrounding normal tissues. Treatment is carefully planned by using 3-D computed tomography (CT) images of the patient, in conjunction with computerized dose calculations that determine the dose intensity pattern which will best conform to the tumor shape while avoiding the specified organs at risk.
 
IMRT is being used extensively to treat a variety of cancers. It can be used as part of a treatment plan for patients with prostate cancer, head and neck cancer, lung cancer, gynecologic cancers, brain tumors and leukemia.
Brachytherapy (also sometimes called "seed implementation") is a short course of radiation therapy delivered to the patient in a controlled environment over a short period of time, usually a few days. It is most typically used in treatment for breast cancer, gynecologic cancers, and prostate cancer.
 
In brachytherapy, radioactive "seeds" are carefully placed inside the cancerous tissue, and positioned in a manner that most efficiently encompasses the cancerous region. There are two different kinds of brachytherapy: permanent (LDR) and temporary (HDR).
 
LDR (permanent)
Low Doserate Brachytherapy (also sometimes called "prostate seed implants") is a course of radiation therapy delivered to the patient in a surgical outpatient procedure. It is primarily used in the treatment of prostate cancer. With permanent implants, the radioactivity of the seeds decays with time (only 1/4 of the radiation remains after 4 months), while the actual seeds permanently stay within the treatment area.
 
HDR (temporary)
High Doserate Brachytherapy is typically used with many gynecologic, breast, and lung cancers. This form of treatment is delivered by placing a source in an applicator that has been placed (or temporarily implanted) inside the body. The radiation is only present during the treatment sessions and is removed after the calculated period of time, usually 2-10 minutes. This type of treatment course can consist of 2 treatments a day for 5 days or 1-2 treatments per week for 2-3 weeks, depending on the area of treatment.
 
Brachytherapy has now been used for more than a century, and has been proven to be very effective and safe. Many times, it is a good alternative to the surgical removal of the prostate, breast or cervix, while at the same time, reducing the risk of certain long-term side effects.
 
For additional information, visit the American Brachytherapy Society.

Meet Our Team

Merrill received her master’s degree in Medical Physics from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and is Board Certified by the American Board of Radiology in Therapeutic Radiologic Physics. Before moving to the Vail Valley to join the Shaw team, she worked as a Medical Physicist in the Denver Metro area. Merrill enjoys her challenging role in Radiation Oncology that includes maintaining and implementing technology, quality assurance, and the verification of treatment delivery as it directly impacts the care of our patients.
 

Marisa is a Certified Medical Dosimetrist with more than 40 years of clinical Radiation Oncology Treatment Planning experience.  A dosimetrist’s role on the radiation team is to computer model the patient from CT, MR, and PET image sets and then design radiation beams that perfectly achieve the Radiation Oncologist’s treatment goals with minimum effect on normal tissue.  Marisa’s initial training, clinical and teaching experience began at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.  Marisa continues to lecture and write curriculum for Web-based educational institutions and for the American Association of Medical Dosimetrists.

Susan is a full-time radiation oncology nurse and is chemotherapy certified to assist in the infusion area. After working in health care for eight years, Susan returned to school and received her nursing degree from Front Range Community College in Westminster, CO.  While working at St. Joseph Hospital, she discovered a passion for oncology and joined the team at Shaw in 2008. Since then, she has obtained her Oncology Nurse Certification.
Susan is the lead radiation therapist and certified medical dosimetrist at Shaw Regional Cancer Center. She began her training as an emergency medical technician, and received her Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science Radiation Therapy. Susan did clinical rotations at UCLA, UC Irvine, Long Beach Memorial, Hoag Hospital and Kaiser Permanente. She is certified in massage therapy and medical dosimetry.

Will Berry, radiation therapist