If radiation therapy is part of your cancer treatment plan, trust the team at UNC Health Southeastern’s Gibson Cancer Center. You’ll be the focus of experts who use the latest, most effective technology and techniques to plan and provide treatment.
Our goal is to help you reach your best possible outcome quickly and smoothly—so you have a fuller, better-quality life.
What’s Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams of radiation to target cancer almost anywhere in the body. Radiation therapy can shrink or destroy tumors with little impact on healthy cells. You may have radiation therapy as well as other treatments, such as chemotherapy.
Sometimes, radiation therapy is used to treat benign (noncancerous) tumors. It can also relieve pain or other symptoms caused by tumors.
Your Treatment Plan
At Gibson Cancer Center, your cancer care plan is tailored to you. If radiation therapy is your best treatment option, you’ll meet with our team to start the planning process. This process makes sure your radiation therapy is as precise as possible.
After you’re diagnosed with cancer, you may receive a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. This test creates high-quality, detailed images to check whether and where cancer may have spread in the body.
In addition to helping doctors plan your treatment, PET scans may take place six to 12 months after radiation therapy. Your care team will compare the test results to see how well treatment is working for you.
During simulation, you'll lie on the same type of table used during radiation therapy. Cushions and other aids will help you stay in the right place and hold still. You’ll then have a computed tomography (CT) scan. This creates detailed images of the inside of the body to show the exact location of cancer.
You’ll receive a tiny, permanent tattoo to mark the part of your body that will receive radiation. During treatment sessions, the tattoo helps make sure we target the correct area.
Customizing Your Plan
After the simulation, our team will carefully plan your treatment so it’s effective and safe. The dose (amount) and type of radiation you receive during treatment depend on:
- Type and stage of cancer
- Your general health
- Your treatment goals
Our cancer center is one of the few community facilities that can plan and adjust radiation therapy onsite. This means you can start treatment sooner.
What to Expect During Treatment
The number of treatments you need depends on different factors. You’ll most likely have radiation therapy five days a week for 10 to 30 minutes each day. Then, you’ll take a break. Spreading out treatments over several weeks lets healthy cells recover between sessions.
If your doctor orders stereotactic radiosurgery, you’ll need just a single session for one high-power dose of radiation.
Treatments take place on an outpatient basis. Outpatient means you come to the cancer center for appointments and go home afterward.
How It’s Done
Once you arrive at the cancer center, radiation therapists will help you get ready in the treatment room. They will leave the room when you receive radiation, but the entire time:
- You can communicate with them through a microphone
- The team will monitor (watch) you through a video camera
You’ll receive radiation from a machine called a linear accelerator. You lie on a table while the machine moves around you. It won’t come close to your body or touch you. Though you’ll need to stay still, you can usually breathe normally and relax. Even if you move slightly during treatment, our technology makes sure your treatment targets the right place.
Benefits of Advanced Technology
With advanced technology comes faster, safer, and more effective care. Our linear accelerators can rotate and give radiation from many angles. This lets the machines target tumors precisely in the body. By limiting healthy organs’ exposure to radiation, the technology reduces side effects and lets you recover more quickly.
Gibson Cancer Center has two linear accelerators. Having more than one dependable machine means your treatment schedule stays on track.
Side Effects of Radiation Therapy
Side effects depend on the part of the body receiving radiation. They also depend on the dose of radiation you receive.
If you have side effects, they’re likely temporary (short-term) and will go away once treatment has ended. Ask our team to help you manage any symptoms.
Your Radiation Team
Depend on the expertise of a well-rounded team of specialists. Our highly qualified, dedicated staff includes:
- Radiation oncologist (doctor) – Oversees use of radiation to treat cancer
- Radiation oncology manager – Organizes the team to make sure you receive high-quality care and the best possible overall experience
- Medical dosimetrist – Calculates the right radiation dose
- Medical physicist – Helps plan and provide treatments so they’re safe and effective
- Radiation therapists – Operate the machines that deliver radiation
Nurses and nursing assistants – Provide care and support