Radiation Oncology

Our Services

The Department of Radiation Oncology at the Massachusetts General Hospital has an exceptionally comprehensive radiation treatment program. The radiation oncologists coordinate patient care with their subspecialty counterparts in Surgical Oncology, Medical and Pediatric Oncology, Pathology and Diagnostic Radiology. Special equipment and facilities including the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center, richly complement this sub specialization of medical talents.

Our radiation oncologists work with clinical physicists to bring the latest technological developments from industry to our patients. Treatment plans are created using the most advanced computing and imaging techniques. Clinicians, Radiation Oncologists, and Physicists have access to a complete array of devices to carefully administer radiation to “target tissues” while minimizing radiation exposure to uninvolved tissue.

The goal of radiation therapy is to eradicate or shrink the tumor cells without damaging the surrounding tissue. Radiation therapy may be used to cure a cancer, to help keep it from spreading, or to help improve quality of life by relieving pain or other symptoms.

Radiation therapy uses photons, electrons, and protons. Higher energy x-ray beams set at a specific distance from the body are used to destroy malignant tissues by causing a break down in the genetic structure or DNA of the cells. These cells are permanently damaged and cannot repair themselves.

Radiation Oncology Services

In order to provide the best possible care to the patient, the patient's evaluation and treatment is managed by members of individual multidisciplinary clinical cancer programs that are organized by cancer diagnosis. These include cancers of the:

  • Breast
  • Central nervous system
  • Head & Neck
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Genitourinary tract
  • Gynecologic
  • Thoracic
  • Pediatric
  • Bone & soft tissue sarcomas
  • Lymphatic system
  • Skull base tumors
  • Tumors of the eye

The participation of patients in these multidisciplinary programs assures patient access to national, multi-institutional clinical trials as well as those developed and exclusively offered at the Cancer Center.

Radiation Oncology Facility & Types of Technologies

Located in the lower level of the Cox building, our main radiation oncology facility houses:

  • Five linear accelerators
  • A “simulator”, and a CT scanner dedicated to radiation treatment planning
  • A sixth linear accelerator is located in the operating room and is used in select cases to deliver a single large dose to patients during surgery to remove their tumor (intraoperative radiation therapy). 

Our linear accelerators vary in the energy of their beams. We take advantage of their differences by assigning patients to the treatment unit that will provide the optimal energy beam for their type and location of tumor. Special radiation technologies available within the scope of the program include:

  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
    Delivers varying dosages of radiation at the same time to different parts of the treatment area
  • Stereotactic radiation surgery and fractionated stereotactic therapy
    A procedure that can precisely aim an intense dose of radiation into a targeted abnormality
  • Intraoperative radiation therapy
    Delivers a large, precise dose of radiation directly into the tumor bed during surgery
  • High dose rate brachytherapy
    Internal radiation source is placed inside your body. These implants, which hold the source of the radiation, can be thin wires, plastic tubes, capsules or seeds.
  • No-exit dose proton beam therapy
    Directs radiation to the diseased tissue only
  • Image guided therapy
  • Prostate ultrasound for daily target localization
  • Partial breast irradiation

The majority of radiation oncology patients receive treatments once per day five days per week. The radiation oncologist determines the total number of treatments. Licensed radiation therapists faithfully administer the radiation “prescription”.

If you have questions regarding the Department of Radiation Oncology please send an email to informationradonc@partners.org

Radiation Oncology Research

Research is an essential part of the Department of Radiation Oncology's mission. Clinical research, basic research and physics research are conducted into the causes and mechanisms of cancer, with an emphasis on translating that work to clinical application, so that we can offer patients the benefits of these advances.

Research in Radiation Oncology

Biostatistics & Biomathematics
Cellular and Molecular Radiation Oncology Laboratory
Edwin Steele Laboratory
Physics Research

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