Oncology is the area of medicine that treats cancer. Radiation oncology – or radiation therapy – involves using targeted, penetrating rays of energy (radiation) to destroy cancer cells. A radiation oncologist
is a specialist trained to use radiation therapy to treat cancer.
Radiation therapy is used to treat cancer as well as offer relief from some of the symptoms of cancer. It may be used to treat cancer alone or in combination with surgery or chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is commonly applied to the cancerous tumor because of its ability to control cell growth and keep the cancerous cell from reproducing. The cancer cells then die and the cancer shrinks. The objective of radiation therapy is to kill enough cancer cells to maximize the probability of a cure and to minimize side effects.
Radiation oncology in the Sentara Cancer Network provides a variety of both inpatient and outpatient radiation therapy services. Our team consists of radiation oncologists who prescribe the treatment regimens, which are then delivered by a collaborative team or staff. These staff members
include medical physicists, dosimetrists, nurses and radiation therapists.
Advanced Radiation Therapy at Sentara
External Beam Radiation Therapy or IORT
This is a method for delivering a beam of high-energy X-rays to the location of the patient's tumor. These X-rays can destroy the cancer cells and careful treatment planning allows the surrounding normal tissues to be spared. Ionizing radiation works by damaging the DNA of exposed tissue. To prevent non-cancerous tissue from being damaged, such as skin or organs which radiation must pass through, the radiation beams are shaped and aimed from several angles of exposure to intersect at the tumor. This strategy exposes the cancerous tumor to a much larger dose than the surrounding healthy tissue.
Brachytherapy/Radioactive Seed Implant Therapy
Brachytherapy is a form of radiotherapy where a radioactive source is placed inside or next to the area requiring treatment.
A minimally invasive form of surgical intervention which uses a three-dimensional coordinates system to locate small targets inside the body. Using highly focused beams of ionizing radiation with high precision is a means to target tumors and other lesions that could be otherwise inaccessible or inadequate for open surgery.