Harnessing Energy to Treat Cancer

Radiation Oncology

Radiation therapy, also called radiation oncology, is the use of high-dose radiation to treat cancer. It’s one of the most common types of cancer treatment with more than half of cancer patients having some form of radiation therapy as part of their treatment plan.

Radiation therapy is often used to shrink a cancer tumor prior to surgery. Radiation therapy also can be used to even cure a very early-stage tumor. Radiation therapy may be the only treatment needed or it may be used along with surgery chemotherapy, or a combination. Other times, radiation therapy is used to slow a cancer’s growth rather than shrinking it.

At Penn Highlands Healthcare, our expert radiation oncology team offers several kinds of radiation therapy, including image-guided radiotherapy, stereotactic radiosurgery, and volumetric-modulated arc therapy. That means you won’t need to travel outside Central Pennsylvania to find the latest radiation treatment for cancer.

Who Is on the Radiation Oncology Team?

Radiation oncologists are physicians who specialize in the treatment of cancer using controlled, high-dose radiation waves. Radiation therapy requires a team approach. At Penn Highlands, your radiation oncology team will consist of:

  • A radiation oncologist, who will design your radiation treatment plan.
  • A dosimetrist, whose job it is to calculate the amount of radiation you need each session and to set the system to deliver the right amount.
  • Radiation therapists, who administer the radiation under the direction of the radiation oncologist.
  • A medical physicist, who ensures the system is calibrated to deliver the correct amount of radiation.

What types of radiation oncology treatments are offered at PHH?

At Penn Highlands, we offer many types of radiation oncology treatments to meet all of your cancer treatment needs, including the latest in external beam radiation therapy (EBRT). EBRT involves aiming a beam of radiation from outside the body at tumors inside the body. Below are the types of radiation oncology treatments we offer at Penn Highlands.

Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) is the use of imaging—CT scan, MRI, or PET scan—during radiation therapy. This allows our radiation therapy team to determine the exact shape and location of cancer cells to improve accuracy of the treatment.

Penn Highlands recently purchased the TrueBeam IMRT system from Varian Medical Systems. It integrates new imaging and motion management technologies that make it possible to treat tumors located in the lung, breast, prostate, head, and neck, as well as others that are affected by body motions, such as breathing. TrueBeam’s dose delivery rates are 40 percent to 140 percent higher than previous technology. The system’s precision is measured in increments of less than a millimeter.

Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT) uses special computers to precisely map a tumor’s shape and location. Radiation beams are then shaped and aimed at the tumor from several directions as to avoid damaging surrounding normal tissue.

Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is an advanced form of 3D-CRT. The intensity, or strength, of the beams can be adjusted to limit the amount of radiation exposure to normal tissue. IMRT is used when a tumor is near an important structure, such as the spinal cord.

Volumetric-modulated arc therapy (VMAT) is a variation of IMRT that delivers radiation quickly over just a few minutes.

Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) delivers a precisely targeted high dose of radiation to difficult-to-reach tumors involving the lungs, liver, pancreas, and spine. It is used as an alternative to surgery in some patients.
Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) uses the same precise radiation as SBRT to treat tumors in the head and neck. It’s provided as an alternative to brain surgery or to shrink a tumor prior to brain surgery.

Deep inspiration breath hold (DIBH), is a technique used in patients with left-sided breast cancer. It minimizes the amount of radiation dose to the heart, reducing the risk of future radiation-induced heart problems, such as coronary artery disease and heart attack.

How Is Radiation Therapy Delivered?

Radiation therapy requires precise planning and collaboration by your entire radiotherapy team. Prior to your first treatment, you will meet with your Penn Highlands radiation therapy team for treatment planning, also called a simulation appointment. This important session provides the radiation oncologist, physicist, and dosimetrist the information they need to ensure the safe and accurate delivery of your radiation therapy. This appointment takes about an hour.

After your therapy is mapped out, you’ll begin treatments, which are administered by a radiation therapist under the direction of your radiation oncologist. You’ll likely receive radiation therapy five days a week for two to seven weeks. Each session lasts only a few minutes, so your visits to the cancer center will be brief.

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Radiation Oncology at Penn Highlands
Hahne Cancer Center - DuBois

Hahne Cancer Center is the premier cancer care provider for the region. The physicians who plan and order radiation therapy treatments are called radiation oncologists, and at Hahne Regional Cancer Center, the radiation oncologist and his team make up the Radiation Oncology Department.

  • Chemotherapy
  • Hematology
  • Immunotherapy
  • Medical Oncology
  • Radiation Oncology

100 Hospital Avenue
DuBois, PA 15801