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Common Questions Regarding Radiation Treatments

What is a linear accelerator?

A Linear Accelerator, also called a Linac, is a special machine that creates radiation out of electricity.  It works very similar to a general X-ray machine or a CT scanner.  We are able to use to create focused beams of radiation that we can then use to treat all parts of the body.

What is a linear accelerator used for?

The Linac delivers external beam radiation using high-energy x-rays to a specific part of the body. Radiation can be used to cure cancer, prevent it from returning, stop or slow its growth, or for symptom management.  

How does a linear accelerator work?

The Linac uses electricity to create high-energy radiation. When the Linac beam is turned off after the treatment delivery, the patient is not radioactive and does not have to follow any safety precautions to protect those around him or her. A course of treatment can range from 1 treatment to 43 treatments depending on the type of cancer.  Most cancers are treatment once a day (Monday through Friday). Some may be treated twice a day depending on the type of cancer. After radiation is delivered, it can take weeks or months for cancer cells to die.

What is Image-Guided Radiation Therapy? 

Image-guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT), using  CT, ultrasound, or other imaging techniques at time of radiation delivery, makes radiation therapy more accurate and causes less damage to healthy cells. IGRT is only used for treatment areas that benefit from this modality.

What is the difference between stereotactic radiation and standard radiation treatments?

Stereotactic Radiation, also referred to as SBRT, refers to delivering a high dose of radiation to a small target area in the body.  This type of treatment can be delivered using both standard radiation machine, and at Baptist Health, we also use a specialized treatment machine for delivering SBRT called Cyberknife.  This machine is unique in that it can follow and make adjustments to movement while treatments are happening.  Even though a patient may be lying perfectly still, the inside of our body can be constantly moving as we breathe and as our bowels are digesting food.  Cyberknife is able to correct for this type of movement.  Cyberknife also does not require any external hardware such as mounted headframe which is often needed for a similar treatment such as Gamma Knife.  Not all patients are candidates for Cyberknife as this requires a patient's cancer to be small and easily targeted.  Talk to your doctor to learn more.

A good resource for additional material is the National Cancer Institute patient education website.  Follow the link below to learn more:

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