Radiation Oncology

Radiation Oncology

The Radiation Oncology Center offers patients the advantages of the most advanced technology combined with a compassionate treatment approach.Our board-certified radiation oncologists and expert medical radiation physicists are trained in advanced systems for treatment planning, along with friendly, compassionate nurses, radiation therapists, social workers, and office staff to keep patients comfortable and well-informed throughout their treatment. The heart of the Center's technology is the Varian Trilogy linear accelerator, a simulator, and a sophisticated 3-D conformal treatment planning system to accurately target tumors and protect normal tissue. This technology offers unmatched speed and precision for treatment of both cancer and neurological conditions.  Brachytherapy treatment is also available, including partial breast radiation.

A Precisely Targeted Therapy
The linear accelerator employs high-energy radiation to effect a cure by destroying cancer cells and their ability to reproduce. Radiation therapy also may be used to relieve pain or other symptoms that can accompany cancer.

Allowing organ and tissue preservation, radiation therapy can be used alone or in concert with surgery and/or chemotherapy. Today's advanced equipment allows radiation to be directed more precisely to the cancer site, while limiting the amount of radiation delivered to normal adjacent tissues. These technologies permit more effective and safer radiation treatments.

Radiation therapy is frequently the choice for treating cancerous tumors of the breast, prostate, head and neck, lung, esophagus, bladder, or female pelvis. It may also be recommended for treating tumors in other parts of the body. 

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy - IMRT
The Diebold Family Cancer Center implemented an advanced cancer treatment referred to as Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT). IMRT is an ultra-precise radiation technique that has demonstrated improvement in the treatment of certain types of cancers. Clinical studies at major cancer centers across the nation have shown that (for certain cancers) IMRT provides significantly better patient outcomes than traditional radiation therapy.

An integral part of IMRT technology is the multi-leaf collimator. This computer-controlled mechanical device consists of up to 80 individually adjusted metal fingers or leaves, which shape the radiation beam. Ordinarily, radiation beams produced by linear accelerators have relatively flat beam profiles; however, neither the external contour of the body nor the internal organs are flat relative to incident radiation beams. With IMRT, the multi-leaf collimator not only functions to shape the radiation beam, but also to vary the intensity of the beam as well. Higher intensities can be concentrated on target areas while lower intensities are given to normal surrounding tissues. This technology allows you to protect normal tissue better than ever, thereby making treatment safer. The potential for higher doses of radiation is now possible for expected improved tumor control. As such, IMRT is rapidly becoming the 3-dimensional conformal radiation delivery system of choice for many malignancies, such as prostate and head and neck cancers.

Choosing Radiation Therapy
The decision to employ radiation therapy depends on the type of cancer to be treated, and where in the body it is located. Your medical oncologist, primary care physician or other specialist may refer you to one of our staff radiation oncologists - a physician who is an expert in the methodology and capabilities of radiation therapy.

The Diebold Family Cancer Center's radiation oncologists are available for patient evaluations and consultations with referring physicians regarding the best course of treatment based on an individual's diagnosis and unique characteristics. Our oncology team remains in close contact with your referring physician throughout your treatment, and will provide timely reports on progress over the several weeks required for radiation therapy.

What Our Patients Should Expect
Treatment at New Milford Hospital means individualized attention during every phase of therapy, from the first consultation through the final treatment and follow-up care.

Each patient's therapy begins with a comprehensive evaluation by a board-certified radiation oncologist. He or she talks with the patient and the referring physician, performs a physical examination, and reviews the results of previous medical tests. This information, including any additional tests that may be indicated, is weighed carefully before a treatment plan is prescribed.

At New Milford Hospital, the patient's perspective is an important consideration in the decision-making process. In meetings with the patient, and his or her family, the radiation oncologist will outline clearly what to expect if radiation therapy is chosen. This includes a description of the treatment and goal of therapy, possible side effects, and a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of radiation therapy and any other treatment options. Questions from patients about their concerns are always encouraged. If radiation treatment is determined to be the best choice for the patient, the treatment planning process will begin in a timely fashion.

Our Supportive Staff
When beginning radiation therapy, patients will meet others who, along with the radiation oncologist and medical physicist, are very important members of the treatment team. A nurse with special training in radiation oncology will explain every aspect of the therapy process, including how to prepare for treatments, as well as how patients should care for themselves at home over the course of the therapy. New Milford Hospital's highly trained board-certified radiation therapists coordinate activities surrounding each day's treatment session under the guidance of the radiation oncologist.

Patients also will meet with a financial account supervisor, who can provide information on insurance matters and help with processing necessary paperwork. If they wish, patients can meet with a staff social worker, who can assist them with concerns, including those arising from stresses associated with their illness.

Planning and Treatment
Today's advanced imaging technologies, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), CT scans, PET scans and fluoroscopy allow the treatment team to determine with great precision the location of a cancerous lesion, how much radiation will be required to eradicate it, and precisely how to target delivery.

At the Diebold Family Cancer Center, the equipment used in the treatment planning and treatment phases includes:
  • A simulator to help determine, before treatment begins, how to direct and combine the radiation treatment fields for maximum safety and effectiveness. This simulator uses X-rays and fluoroscopy with freeze-frame capability to pinpoint the exact treatment area.
  • A 3-D Treatment Planning System, using data from the simulator and other imaging studies, combines information on the shape of the patient, size and location of the tumor, and nearby critical organs into a computerized 3-dimensional image. The radiation oncologist and medical physicist will be able to clearly visualize the tumor as they plan to deliver the maximum dose of radiation to the target site and the minimum dose to other tissue to keep the risk of complications to a minimum.
  • A state-of-the-art linear accelerator will deliver radiation to the tumor. This sophisticated equipment offers great precision to deliver optimum treatment. A computerized record and verification system is used to monitor each patient's treatment.
  • HDR equipment to deliver MammoSite (high dose partial breast radiation)
Daily Therapy Sessions
Conventional radiation therapy usually requires five to seven weeks of daily treatments, Monday through Friday. Exposure to radiation is brief and painless. The actual time a patient spends in the linear accelerator room is approximately 15 minutes at each daily session. Most radiation therapy patients are treated on an outpatient basis.

Regular consultation with the treatment team over the course of several weeks allows patients and staff members to get to know each other well.

Brachytherapy
Brachytherapy is a treatment technique that places radiation therapy sources within the body as close as possible to the tumor. Sometimes the radiation sources are placed directly into the tumor. This technique is particularly useful in treating cancers of the cervix, uterus, vagina, and certain head and neck cancers. It can also be used to treat breast, brain, skin, esophageal, soft tissue, lung, bladder and prostate cancer.

High dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy is available at the Cancer Center. Using this technology, treatments that previously took several hours or days to deliver can be done in minutes on an outpatient basis.

In addition, working with the Hospital's urology team, the center has an active prostate brachytherapy program.

Radiopharmaceuticals
New Milford Hospital offers specialized treatments with radiopharmaceuticals, drugs that are radioactive, and deliver radiation in a targeted way. Uses include bone cancers and lymphomas.

Referral for Radiation Treatment
Most patients receiving radiation therapy at our Diebold Family Cancer Center are referred by their personal physician or a cancer specialist. However, patients who undergo surgery or other treatment for cancer elsewhere can initiate their own arrangements for therapy at the center. This can be a convenient alternative for people who live and work in the greater New Milford community or in other nearby areas.