Radiation Oncology At Beacon Cancer Care
Getting a cancer diagnosis is always difficult news to absorb; it can change your whole perspective on life and disrupts your expectations and plans for the future. At a certain point, however, you know that you cannot simply react. It is a time that calls for action. But what action? Deciding on a treatment plan is a challenge.
About a century ago, people with cancer had few options besides surgery. Today, however, there are often many options for treatment, and new therapies are being developed and researched on an ongoing basis. This makes your decision more difficult because nearly every option has drawbacks.
Surgery is still an option for many types of cancer, but there are other treatments as well, including chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation. In addition, there are also more specialized treatments for specific types of cancer, such as hormone therapy and hyperthermia. In some cases, treatment may involve only one form of therapy; in others, multiple therapies may be used. For example, a colon cancer patient with Stage II cancer may have surgery to resect the colon but then undergo chemotherapy to address the risk that cancer could spread or come back.
Beacon Expands: Now Offering Radiation Therapy
At Beacon Cancer Care, we aim to provide cancer patients with comprehensive support and assistance throughout their cancer treatment, from diagnosis to recovery. In addition to offering many treatments in-house, Beacon provides a variety of supportive services, including nutritional and financial counseling, wellness, and caregiver support.
Until this year, oral chemotherapy and immunotherapy were the primary cancer treatments patients could access directly from Beacon, along with services like phlebotomy and counseling. This year, Beacon is pleased to welcome Radiation Oncologist Dr. Jonathan Sharrett to the staff at Beacon. Accordingly, Beacon has expanded its offerings to provide radiation oncology at its new Post Falls location.
While most people have heard of radiation therapy as a treatment for cancer, many still do not understand what is involved. To a certain extent, this is understandable, as therapies are constantly changing, even within the field of radiology. Let’s start with understanding the basic idea behind radiation treatment for cancer.
Other than permanent cells (such as neurons and heart cells), the cells in our body are in a constant cycle of replication. For example, our skin is constantly shedding dead cells and producing new ones. Normally, the DNA within a cell “tells” the cell when to replicate and when to stop replicating. In contrast, in a cancerous cell, the DNA is damaged, and these defective cells begin to proliferate in an uncontrolled manner, creating tumors. There are many different kinds of cancer because many different types of body tissue can develop cancerous cells.
Cancer treatments are intended to remove or kill defective, or cancerous cells. With surgery, tumors can be removed. The hope is that the surgery removes all the defective cells so they don’t replicate, causing cancer to come back or metastasize. Immunotherapy aims to spur the patient’s immune system to “attack” the defective cells and eradicate them. With chemotherapy and radiation, the goal is to kill cancerous cells.
What Does Radiation Do?
Radiation works by using a machine that sends high-energy particles or waves, called X-rays or gamma rays, at tumors. These waves stop the ability of the cancerous cell to replicate and can cause the tumor to shrink.
Different forms of radiation may be used depending on the type of cancer. These will go by several names, including external beam radiation (EBRT), brachytherapy (internal radiation therapy), photon beam radiation, proton beam therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), and intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT). Different types of radiation work differently, and not all types are suitable for every kind of cancer.
Radiation has been effective and successful in treating many different cancers. However, one of the primary concerns of patients who consider radiation therapy is that the radiation directed at the cancerous tumor also affects the cells of the surrounding healthy tissue. Because of this problem, researchers are doing more and more to develop radiation therapies that can target the cancer more effectively and minimize the radiation dosage. Nonetheless, radiation’s effects on a patient’s overall well-being are always a concern.
Side effects vary depending on the area being treated. The most common side effect is fatigue. Also, a patient will often experience skin irritation and hair loss in the targeted area. If the cancer is in any part of the gut, the patient may also experience nausea. Radiation therapy can also be inconvenient; occasionally, treatment will require daily appointments for a month or two.
Discuss Your Options With Beacon Cancer Care
Radiation is a standard treatment option for a wide variety of cancers, either alone or in conjunction with other therapies. If you are considering radiation therapy, Beacon can help you to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that includes radiation treatment at our Post Falls facility. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, we are here to help. Making an informed decision is critical to controlling your cancer journey. For support and assistance with your cancer journey, contact Beacon Cancer Care today.