What is radiation oncology?
Radiation oncology is a medical specialty where doctors use powerful energy beams like X-rays and electrons (called radiation therapy) to treat cancer in different ways.
Our cancer experts work hard to maximize radiation therapy’s cancer-destroying effects while decreasing its impact on your life as much as possible. Members of our team lead research efforts to further expand treatment options for eligible patients
How to talk to your doctor about radiation oncology
If your doctor recommends radiation therapy to treat cancer, you may have many questions. Our team will meet with you to explain everything you need to know about what a treatment involves and how it could affect you — now and in the future.
We encourage you to bring up any questions or concerns you have about your care or treatment options. Our nurses and support professionals are available to answer your questions, including what to expect and potential treatment side effects.
The therapies we offer do not leave long-term radiation in your body. When you go home after a treatment session, you can feel confident that the radioactive materials we used pose no further risk to you or others.
Radiation oncology: What to expect
There are two main types of radiation therapy:
- External radiation therapy is when specialists use treatment machines to direct radiation beams at tumors from outside the body.
- Internal radiation therapy is also called brachytherapy. Doctors temporarily place radioactive particles inside the body, near or within a tumor.
Not all cancers react the same way to radiation treatments. Your doctor may recommend radiation therapy before, after or instead of surgery or chemotherapy. Multiple cancer experts consider the details of your case before recommending a plan that’s right for you.
Our radiation oncologists stay up to date with leading research to protect your health today and for years to come. For example, we use an advanced type of internal radiation therapy to treat complex gynecological cancers in novel ways.
Why choose us for radiation therapy to treat cancer?
We use sophisticated machines and specialized techniques to treat many types of cancer in children and adults. You can access most of these services under one roof at Mays Cancer Center.
Highlights of our program include:
- Leading therapies: As the only academic medical center in San Antonio, we have worked to develop high-tech radiation therapies. For example, our doctors use novel radiation therapy techniques to treat cancer that spreads to the brain.
- Specialized training: Each of our radiation oncologists focuses on treating certain types of tumors and body systems. This specialization leads to a high level of expertise for both common and rare cancers.
- Team mindset: A radiation oncologist is one of several members of your care team. Our radiation specialists meet with other cancer doctors, including surgeons and medical oncologists. We regularly discuss your care and refine your treatment plan to fit your unique needs.
- Commitment to quality and safety: Your health, safety and comfort are always our top concerns. We use sophisticated imaging technology to improve treatment effectiveness and decrease your risk. For example, using DIBH helps us treat left-sided breast cancer effectively with less long-term impact on the heart.
Types of radiation therapy we offer
You can access leading advances in radiation therapy at Mays Cancer Center. Our services include:
- 3-D conformal radiation therapy uses imaging technology to help doctors treat a tumor while avoiding healthy tissues. We use it to treat many cancer types.
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) allows doctors to break large radiation beams into smaller beams, shaping radiation to a tumor. IMRT can treat certain cancers, such as head and neck, prostate and lung cancers, more effectively than 3-D conformal radiation therapy and with fewer side effects.
- Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) uses advanced surface imaging and mapping systems to account for minuscule movements (like when you breathe). IGRT offers an extra layer of precision, enabling doctors to treat tumors such as sarcomas and pediatric cancers while protecting surrounding healthy tissues.
- Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) delivers very high radiation doses to a specific area with extreme precision, reducing treatment time. Treatments that used to take seven weeks can sometimes be done in as few as four treatments with SBRT.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery (or radiotherapy) treats brain tumors with five or fewer treatments, without a single incision. Many patients experience few or no treatment side effects from stereotactic radiosurgery (radiotherapy).
- Brachytherapy (also called internal radiation therapy) uses catheters or tiny devices temporarily placed within the body to deliver a precise cloud of radiation close to a tumor. We use computer and imaging technology to maximize brachytherapy's cancer-destroying effect while limiting side effects
- Pediatric radiation therapy uses multiple technologies to treat cancer in children from infancy to young adulthood. Our team includes radiation oncologists who are highly trained in how to use pediatric radiation therapies precisely, with a focus on children’s long-term health and comfort.
Leading radiation therapy in San Antonio
We partner with MD Anderson Cancer Center to bring a higher level of cancer care to people living in San Antonio and surrounding South Texas counties. In many cases, our radiation oncologists consult with MD Anderson’s team to get additional research-based treatment recommendations.
Through our internationally recognized research program, we participate in and lead many national and local clinical trials. If eligible, you may be able to receive promising new therapies before they are widely available.
For example, some radiation oncology studies explore how to deliver the same treatment effect in less time. Other research offers new hope for cancers that were once thought incurable.