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

SBRT for Prostate Cancer

Learn about a fairly new therapy called Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) for treating prostate cancer.

Medical Insight: SBRT for Prostate Cancer - Essentia Health Video Transcript


The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Text, Essentia Health. Medical InsightThree men with wine glasses

TRACY BRIGGS: Prostate cancer is the number one cancer among American men. Approximately one in six men will get it at some point in their life. While it's often very treatable, an effective new treatment is making it even more convenient for the patient.

A man receives radiation treatment. Dr. Mark Cooper

MARK COOPER: SBRT is stereotactic body radiation therapy. And it's a specialized way of delivering radiation treatments. TRACY BRIGGS: Dr. Mark Cooper, an oncologist at Essentia Health in Fargo, says like traditional types of radiation treatments, SBRT uses radiation to destroy cancer cells.

Animation shows beams of radiation that target the prostate

However, while traditional radiation therapy is low dose over a longer period of time, SBRT uses a highly concentrated dose of radiation for just five total treatments.

MARK COOPER: And when you consider that we can do this treatment and maybe five treatments, particularly in our geographic area where we're drawing patients from huge distances, it becomes a very valuable option.

TRACY BRIGGS: Dr. Cooper says each treatment will last about 15 to 20 minutes. And the side effects are few.

MARK COOPER: Most patients come in on their own. They drive in, leave on their own, and don't have any immediate effects. I usually have some men who say they felt a little tired later in the day.

TRACY BRIGGS: Dr. Cooper explains that SBRT is more convenient and less expensive, and as effective in treating prostate cancer. And it's the solution some of his patients have been waiting for.

MARK COOPER: Several of them would say, "I'm so glad that I had this option. " And they're happy with the results.

TRACY BRIGGS: Dr. Cooper says SBRT is best for men whose prostate cancer is localized, and considered low to intermediate severity.

If you'd like to know if it could be an option for you or a loved one, call your doctor.

With this Essentia Health Medical Insight, I'm Tracy Briggs.


Ask for a Referral

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

Like most websites, we use cookies and other technologies to keep our website reliable, secure, and to better understand how our site is used. By using our site, you agree to our use of these tools. Learn more.