Radiation Oncology

Radiation therapy uses invisible, painless high-energy waves to destroy, shrink, or stop the growth of cancer tumors. Trust your care team at Essentia Health to educate you and help you feel comfortable throughout treatment.

External (Beam) Radiation Therapy

During external radiation therapy, the most common type of radiation treatment, you lie near a machine called a linear accelerator. The machine sends X-rays through your body into the tumor.

The time you're exposed to the radiation beam is often only a few minutes. The length of your appointment will depend on the custom treatment plan your doctor creates for you. Treatment usually lasts 15 to 30 minutes and includes time to do imaging to position you correctly.

Shielding Healthy Tissue

Healthy tissue near your tumor can be protected from radiation.

  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) – Matches a tumor’s shape and focuses the radiation dose to areas with more cancer cells
  • Image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT) – Uses advanced, four-dimensional imaging to take pictures of your tumor during each treatment and ensure the radiation beam hits just the right spot
  • Respiratory gating – Adjusts the radiation beam to follow tumors that move as you breathe
  • Deep inspiration breath hold technique – Expands your lungs and pushes your heart out of the path of radiation sent to your left breast as you hold your breath

Treatment Planning

Trust our team to deliver precise radiation and create a treatment plan tailored to you with careful planning. Before treatment, we’ll take a CT scan. This allows your doctor to pinpoint the tumor and decide on the treatment amount.

During the CT scan, also called a simulation scan, you'll lay in the position you'll be in during radiation treatment. After your scan, we’ll place small marks on your skin to help you stay in the correct position during treatment. We may also create a custom device to help you stay still. The planning process is painless, and your care team will guide you along the way.

Internal Radiation Therapy

For internal radiation treatment, or brachytherapy, small, radioactive pellets are placed inside your body near or in your tumor. This method harms as few healthy cells as possible.

Brachytherapy for Prostate Cancer

If you’re a candidate for low-dose rate brachytherapy for prostate cancer, we can precisely target your tumor with surgery. You may also hear this treatment called seed implants or permanent brachytherapy, because the radioactive pellets are left in place even after they stop giving out radiation.

Radiopharmaceutical Therapy

If you have cancer in your thyroid, bones, or prostate, you may receive radioactive medicine by mouth or through a vein. The medicine travels through your blood and attaches to cancer cells to destroy them.

Radiation Therapy Team

Your radiation therapy care team may include:

  • Radiation oncologist (cancer doctor) – Prescribes the type and number of treatments and sees you regularly to check your progress
  • Radiation therapy nurse – Teaches you about treatment and side effects
  • Radiation therapist – Administers radiation treatments
  • Dosimetrist and physicist – Help develop your treatment plan

Ask for a Referral

You’ll need a referral from your primary care provider or a specialist for this service.