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Radiation therapy

An oncologist is a type of doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer. One type of treatment an oncologist may use is radiation therapy, which destroys cancer cells through beams of strong energy.

Radiation oncology in Nashville, Tennessee

If you need additional cancer support beyond surgery and chemotherapy, radiation therapy may help.

At Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at TriStar Health, our radiation therapists have specialized knowledge in the diagnosis and treatment of rare and complex cancers. Through beams of strong energy, radiation oncologists target specific areas to kill cancer cells and get you one step closer to recovery.

Have cancer questions?

We can help. askSARAH is a dedicated, confidential helpline for your cancer-related questions. Our specially trained nurses are available 24/7.

We can help. askSARAH is a dedicated, confidential helpline for your cancer-related questions. Our specially trained nurses are available 24/7.

Our radiation therapy process

No matter the type of radiation therapy that is best for your condition, we will always treat you with the same high-quality level of care and attention.

The process of radiation therapy

Our cancer care team consists of many experts coming together to ensure the best possible care for you in your journey. If your oncologist recommends radiation treatment for cancer, you can expect the following:

Initial consultation with a radiation therapist

After registration, you will have an initial consultation with your radiation oncologist. They will explain the diagnosis and the reason radiation therapy is necessary, as well as how many treatments are needed and what side effects to expect. From there, you will schedule a radiation therapy planning appointment.

Radiation therapy planning

Radiation therapy planning firstly requires a CT scan. After the CT scan is complete, the radiation therapist schedules your next visit.

Radiation therapy planning is quite complex and can take several days to complete. Although we understand the urgency to begin treatment, we are very careful to take the time to create an optimized plan for you. This will ensure your safety and maximize the treatment's effectiveness.

Treatment setup verification

During your next visit, we verify your treatment setup. The first session is not a radiation treatment, as it is used to ensure your treatments will be exactly as your doctor has planned.

At the end of your verification session, the radiation therapist will explain the process of your daily check-in for treatments. Treatments then typically begin within a few days.

Daily radiation treatments

Radiation treatments are delivered on consecutive weekdays, with weekends off. Treatments can be as short as 5 minutes or as long as 30 minutes, but your therapists will let you know approximately how long they will take.

The medical staff will see you at least once a week during your course of radiation therapy. These visits are brief, symptom-management checks and typically last five minutes.

Family members are not permitted to observe radiation treatments. We understand many patients may want to share this experience with loved ones, however, to prioritize patient privacy and guest safety, we ask only the patient be present for treatments.

Types of radiation therapy

The type of therapy you receive will depend on your condition, your personal health and several other factors, but options include:

  • 3D conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT) uses three-dimensional computerized tomography (CT) scans to determine the exact shape and size of tumors, then precisely treat the tumor while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
  • Brachytherapy implants seeds, or radioactive sources, near tumors or adjacent areas to kill cancer cells locally.
  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) uses multiple radioactive beams with different intensities that deliver the highest dose to the tumor, while minimizing exposure to surrounding healthy tissues
  • Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) uses a specialized radiation device to deliver a high radiation dose to the exposed target during a surgery. Healthy tissues can often be protected by using shielding materials or moving them out of the way.
  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) uses precise imaging, in conjunction with high-intensity radiation beams, usually in three to five treatments, most commonly for tumors in the lungs, spine, liver and prostate
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is a noninvasive, nonsurgical treatment that uses multiple high-intensity beams to deliver extremely precise radiation doses to tumors in the brain during a single treatment.
  • Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) uses a linear accelerator that rotates around you while delivering intense, highly-precise and modulated radiation beams to tumors while minimizing side effects.
  • Y-90 radioembolization injects microscopic beads with radioactive material into the blood vessels that supply blood to a liver tumor. The microbeads shrink the tumors and block the blood supply to cancerous cells.

About Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute

As part of Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Network of HCA Healthcare, our family of facilities offer integrated cancer programs with convenient access to cutting-edge therapies for those facing cancer in our communities. From diagnosis to treatment and survivorship care, our oncology experts ensure you have access to locally-trusted care with the support of a globally-recognized network.

askSARAH Helpline

Have cancer questions? We can help. askSARAH is a dedicated helpline for your cancer-related questions. Our specially trained nurses are available 24/7, and all calls are confidential. Contact askSARAH at (352) 339-7000.

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