Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy and irradiation, uses high doses of radiation to damage or kill harmful cells. It’s most commonly used to treat cancer.

When is Radiation Therapy used?

Radiation Therapy is one of the most common cancer treatments. About half of people with cancer are treated with radiation therapy. It can be used alone, or with other treatments, like surgery or chemotherapy. You and your UNC Medical Center care team will work together to create a treatment plan that’s best for you. Your doctor may use radiotherapy to:

  • Eliminate a tumor
  • Reduce the size of a tumor before surgery
  • Prevent a tumor from returning
  • Relieve or reduce symptoms from cancer

Radiation Therapies We Offer

At UNC Medical Center, you’ll find nearly a dozen types of radiation therapy. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, and some are available only for certain types of cancer. Your radiation oncologist – a physician who specializes in treating cancer with radiation – will help you choose the one that’s best for you and your specific condition.

External Beam Therapy (ERT)

In this type of therapy, radiation beams are generated by a machine and aimed at the tumor site with the help of imaging technology. UNC Medical Center offers advanced radiation technology, including:

  • Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT) – Delivers the highest possible dose of radiation in varying shapes designed to hit a tumor while avoiding nearby healthy tissue
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) – Varies the strengths and intensities of radiation beams as well as the shape
  • Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) – Uses frequent imaging to track changes in the location and shape of a tumor to target radiation more precisely
  • TomoTherapy® – Uses a CT scan just before treatment and delivers precise radiation from all angles, rather than from just a few directions
  • CyberKnife ® stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) – Uses a computer-controlled robot and image guidance software to track and continually adjust treatment as the robot delivers radiation to a tumor with pinpoint accuracy
  • Intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) – Delivers localized, single-dose radiation treatment directly through a surgical incision to the tissue in the spot where a tumor has been removed
  • Total body irradiation (TBI) – Gives a dose of radiation to the entire body, usually to prepare for bone marrow or blood stem cell transplants

Internal Radiation Therapy (Brachytherapy)

In this type of therapy, radioactive material is placed directly inside or next to a tumor. UNC Medical Center offers:

  • Eye plaque – Delivers radiation to an eye tumor; left in for several days before being removed
  • High dose rate brachytherapy (HDR) – Delivers a high dose of radiation in a short burst or bursts before the device is removed
  • Prostate seed implant – Surgically implants a radioactive seed to destroy a tumor; the implants remain in place permanently but radioactivity disappears in a month or two
  • TheraSphere® – Delivers radiation through your blood flow directly to tumors in the liver

Radiation Therapy Support Services

At UNC Medical Center, you’ll find support services designed especially for people undergoing radiation therapy. Take advantage of:

  • Free one-hour clinic parking directly in front of NC Cancer Hospital for people receiving daily outpatient radiation therapy
  • Dietitians to advise you on proper nutrition during your treatment
  • Dedicated financial counselors to discuss insurance or billing issues
  • A dedicated cancer social worker to help with logistical arrangements for your care

Learn more about cancer care, including treatment options and support services, at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at NC Cancer Hospital.

Contact Us

To make an appointment with a radiation oncologist at UNC Medical Center, call 984-974-8415.

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