In 1895, German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen first produced x-rays, ushering in an era of radiation science. More than a century later, a wide array of radiation therapy approaches have been developed to shrink and destroy cancerous tumors.
Since radiation was first harnessed to treat cancer, radiation oncologists -- the doctors who oversee patients' radiation therapy -- have grappled with its side effects. Because x-ray radiation scatters, healthy tissue near a tumor can be damaged, resulting in irritation and other side effects during treatment and beyond.
The good news is that doctors currently have access to the most precise radiation therapy ever developed, from shaping radiation beams to the contours of tumors to focusing higher doses of radiation into tumor tissue.
Advances in therapy include:
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy: IMRT enables doctors to direct radiation of different intensities to different parts of the tumor. The goal is to increase the radiation dose to selected areas and reduce exposure to sensitive areas of surrounding normal tissue.
- Image-guided radiation therapy: During IGRT, imaging scans are analyzed as the patient progresses through treatment to identify changes in tumor size and adjust the radiation dose accordingly. Repeated maging scans can increase the accuracy of each radiation treatment and reduce the total radiation dose.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery and radiotherapy: A very high, precise dose of radiation is used to quickly treat small tumors with well-defined edges. This technique is used to treat brain and spine tumors as well as cancers of the lung, liver and pancreas.
- Prone radiation therapy for breast cancer: During treatment, a woman lies on her stomach with the breasts exposed to radiation through an opening in the table, sparing the lungs and heart from radiation exposure.
- Brachytherapy: Radioactive implants, such as tiny seeds, are surgically placed internally to deliver radiation directly to a tumor site.
NewYork-Presbyterian offers the latest radiation therapy approaches in modern, comfortable radiation oncology units. Radiation oncologists are members of multidisciplinary teams of cancer specialists who provide advanced treatments and conduct clinical trials of innovative therapies.
NewYork-Presbyterian Cancer Centers provide high-quality, comprehensive cancer care at convenient locations throughout the New York metropolitan area, Westchester and the Lower Hudson Valley. NYP Cancer Centers provide a comprehensive program of cancer services in a state-of-the-art, comfortable environment. Board certified radiation, surgical and medical oncologists collaborate with a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists to provide each patient with an individualized plan of care. To find a location, visit nyp.org/cancerlocations.
NewYork-Presbyterian is one of the largest and most comprehensive hospitals in the nation, ranked New York’s No. 1 hospital for the 16th consecutive year, and No. 6 in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Affiliated with two academic medical colleges – Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian brings together internationally recognized researchers and clinicians to develop and implement the latest approaches for prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center is one of only three NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in New York State. NewYork-Presbyterian provides comprehensive cancer care at all of our locations across the New York Metro area, including Westchester County and the Hudson Valley. Learn more at nyp.org/cancer.