There are four types of radiation therapy used for our patients: Preoperative or Postoperative External Beam Radiation, Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT), Internal Radiation/Radiation Implants and Proton Beam Therapy.
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Radiation Therapy There are four types of radiation therapy used for our patients which are administered by the radiation oncologists in Radiation Oncology, Cox Building.
The Department of Radiation Oncology developed a patient guide about Radiation Therapy, which provides more information about the different types of radiation treatments and what patients can expect. Download a PDF of the patient guide.
Preoperative or Postoperative External Beam Radiation: Your first appointment in radiation oncology is called a simulation. At this time, the radiation field (tumor bed and surrounding tissue) is marked with indelible ink. This type of radiation delivers a calculated daily dose of radiation to an area of tissue within a short period of time, usually once or twice a day for 15 minutes or so. Duration is one to five weeks.
Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT): This type of radiation is given during your surgery. After your surgeon removes the sarcoma, the tumor bed (area where the tumor was including surrounding tissue) is directly radiated. Then your surgeon closes your wound.
Internal Radiation/Radiation Implants: During surgery brachycatheters (small thin tubes) are placed at the tumor site once the tumor is removed. Your surgeon closes your wound and you are transferred to the recovery room, and eventually to a 'leaded room' on the nursing floor. The radiation oncologists will place tiny radiation pellets in the catheters which will stay in place for as many days as deemed necessary. Visiting hours are limited during these treatments days. Check with the nurses regarding specific instructions. Family and friends who 'are' or 'may think they are pregnant' can not visit.
Proton Beam Therapy: Proton beam therapy is a high technology form of radiation therapy used for treating specialized types of sarcomas. Proton beam therapy offers an advantage in that the depth of penetration of the radiation beam can be accurately controlled.
Special Note: All types of radiation therapy can delay the wound healing process. Most often the wounds heal without difficulty but you should be aware that your incision may open and drain despite following all your doctor's restrictions on weightbearing and range of motion. If your surgeon is concerned that would healing problems are likely, a plastic surgeon may be asked to move a muscle or flap from elsewhere to help with healing. If a wound problem develops, wet to dry packing of the wound is done daily, or twice daily which begins the slow process of healing (granulation). Many times wounds need a little clean-up job called an irrigation and debridement (I&D). Dealing with chronic draining open wounds that will not heal is mentally and physically exhausting. Some patients cope with this problem one to two years after their original surgery. On a more positive note, we have plenty of patients who will share with you their 'delayed wound healing experiences' because they have finally healed and have resumed normal daily activities.