About Radiation Therapy
Residency Program Studies Cancer & Tumor Treatment
Radiation Oncologists are specialized.
Radiation Oncologists are the only medical specialists specifically trained to know what radiation can accomplish and what its side effects might be.
What is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation at high levels — ten thousands of times the amount used, for instance, to produce a chest X-ray — destroys the ability of cells to grow and divide. Both normal and diseased cells are affected, but most normal cells are able to recover quickly.
Fifty-five to Sixty Percent
By carefully aiming and timing the high-energy rays, Radiation Oncologists use radiation as an effective tool in treatment. Fifty-five to 60 percent of all people with cancer are treated with it at some point. For many patients, radiotherapy is the only kind of therapy utilized to destroy the cancer.
What are the benefits of Radiation Therapy?
Radiation Oncologists use radiation to treat tumors in almost every part of the body. Sometimes radiation is used before surgery to shrink a cancerous tumor. After surgery, it may be used to stop the growth of any cancer cells that remain. In some cases, doctors prefer to use radiation and anti-cancer drugs, rather than surgery, to destroy a cancerous growth and prevent its reappearance.
Radiotherapy Used to Shrink Tumors
In cases of advanced disease, when a cure is not likely, treatment with radiation can still bring a large measure of relief. Many patients find the quality of their lives improved when radiotherapy is used to shrink tumors and reduce pressure, bleeding, pain or other symptoms.
Are there risks involved?
As with any other treatment for disease, there are risks with radiation. Radiotherapy uses relatively high doses of radiation to destroy cells. The risk of destroying some healthy cells (that is, the risk of side effects), however, is usually outweighed by the benefits of killing cancer cells.
Benefits Need to Outweigh Risks
Your Radiation Oncologist will not advise any treatment unless the benefits you expect — such as control of disease and relief from symptoms — exceed the known risks.
Are treatments expensive?
Treatment with radiation can be costly. It involves very complex equipment as well as the services of many health care professionals. The exact cost of radiation therapy varies, of course, with the type and number of treatments required. The hospital and the physicians bill separately for their respective services.
Most health insurance policies cover Radiation Therapy.
Most health insurance policies, including Part B of Medicare, cover charges for radiation therapy. You will need to discuss your policy and expected costs with the doctor's business manager and/or the hospital business office.
Medicaid may help you pay.
The Medicaid program may help you pay for therapy. Contact the office that handles social services in your city or county to find out if you are eligible for Medicaid and whether Radiation Oncology treatment is a covered expense.
If You Need Financial Aid
If you need financial aid, contact
- LMC's Social Services Department
- The Cancer Information Service
- Local office of the American Cancer Society
They may be able to direct you to sources of help. Also, the LMC Business Office can work with you to set up a payment plan for the hospital charges, if needed.
Who gives radiation treatments?
The Radiation Oncologist heads up a highly trained team of health care professionals, including:
- The Radiation Physicist, who calibrates the treatment machines to ensure that the dose delivered accurately reflects the prescription and customizes the radiation beams to conform to the plan of the Radiation Oncologist.
- The Radiation Dosimetrist, who computes the dosage of radiation prescribed by the Radiation Oncologist.
- The Radiation Therapist, who delivers the prescribed treatment and assists you before and after each treatment session.
- The Radiation Oncology Nurse, who assists the Radiation Oncologist in medical-surgical procedures and is a valuable information resource for you.
You may also, at some point, use the services of a dietitian, a physical therapist, a social worker or other health care professionals.