Radiation therapy is a form of cancer treatment that uses high-energy radiation to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells by damaging their DNA. During a procedure, radiation in the form of X-rays, gamma rays or charged particles are delivered to the body through an external machine (for ovarian cancer treatment, for example), through radioactive material placed in the body near cancerous cells (in prostate brachytherapy, for example) or injected directly into the bloodstream.
Because radiation therapy can also damage normal cells, it must be used quite carefully to control and minimize potential side effects. Roughly two-thirds of cancer patients receive some form of radiation therapy as part of their cancer treatment, including lung cancer therapy, breast cancer treatment, and colorectal cancer treatment. Radiation is often used in combination with chemotherapy to provide the best chance to eradicate the cancer.
For patients requiring radiation therapy, The Department of Radiation Oncology at Brigham and Women's Hospital combines the most advanced technologies with the compassion and care that patients and their families need during a cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Radiation therapy and comprehensive cancer treatment
Brigham and Women's Hospital is one of the world's leading providers of cancer research. With the combined resources of Dana-Farber – one of the world's leading cancer institutes – and Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) – one of the country's best hospitals – the Cancer Center offers patients a unique combination of resources to fight cancer.
Care providers at the Center work closely with a variety of specialists to develop an individualized radiation therapy plan for every patient, and provide services to support patients and their families before and after treatment.
Patients at the center may receive treatment for a wide variety of cancers, including breast cancer, endometrial cancer treatment, head and neck cancers, lymphoma, cervical cancer treatment, and more. Radiation therapy at the Center is available at both the BWH and Dana-Farber facilities in Boston's Longwood Medical area, and at the Milford Regional Medical Center and South Shore Hospital.
Research in radiation oncology to develop new therapy models
The Department of Radiation Oncology is actively engaged in research to develop ways to better identify and treat cancer. Much of the research involves developing ways to deliver higher doses of radiation to cancerous cells and tumors while minimizing the effects on healthy surrounding tissue.