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More than half of cancer patients go through radiation therapy

Undergoing external radiation therapy

When a patient is first diagnosed with cancer, the doctor needs to address all available treatment options. If radiation therapy is to be included in the cancer treatment, questions about the treatment may arise. Find out here what to expect during a radiation therapy journey.

The procedure of the radiation therapy session will depend on the machine of the local medical center. Below is a description of a common treatment procedure.19

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A linear accelerator will direct high energy radiation beams into the patient’s body. The patient is situated on a table while the linear accelerator moves around them to deliver radiation from several angles. During the treatment, the machine emits a “buzzing” sound. Every treatment session only last a few minutes.19

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The patient might be positioned with the help of molds to hold them in place. The linear accelerator can be adjusted to every patient’s individual needs to deliver the precisely calculated radiation dose.19

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The radiation therapy team stays in a room nearby with a video and audio connection to monitor the patient during the session. The patient can notify the staff if they feel uncomfortable, but normally they should not experience any pain during a radiation therapy session.19

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Typically, external beam radiation sessions are scheduled every weekday over a certain period of time (weeks). The patient can go home after each session. In most cases, treatments are usually spread out over several weeks to allow the healthy cells to recover in between radiation therapy sessions.19

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A whole therapy session usually lasts over an hour, since the radiation team will need to adjust the machine and assure that the patient is in the correct position. The actual duration of a radiation treatment is only a few minutes.19

Types of Linear Accelerator (LINAC):

Three-Dimensional Conformal RT (3DCRT)

A machine where the radiation beams are shaped to match the tumor before the radiation.

Intensity-Modulated RT (IMRT)

Improvement of 3DCRT by giving radiation oncologists the ability to “sculpt” the edges of a tumor which will minimize the damage.³⁵

Image-Guided RT (IGRT)

Improvement of IMRT that uses advanced imaging technology to monitor the treatment throughout the entire process.³⁵


High precision IGRT imaging during radiation (not before and/ or after). Tumors close or in direct contact with vital organs can be treated without risk (spine, heart etc).

The Gamma Knife and Cyberknife

The high dose of radiation energy is so precise, that it has been called “knife-like”.³⁵

Proton therapy

Proton therapy is performed with cyclotron or synchrotron machines, which use proton beams instead of electrons or x-rays. Protons, as part of atoms, cause less damage to the tissue when penetrating it.²