What Happens During Radiation Therapy?

A radiation oncologist prescribes radiation therapy. If you are considering radiation, ask your doctor about the different options available that would achieve the desired results for your specific diagnosis and spinal tumor.

The most common form of radiation treatment for spinal tumors is external beam therapy, typically delivered via a medical device known as a linear accelerator, or LINAC. Certain external beam therapies are delivered on an outpatient basis, are non-invasive and therefore usually pain free, and take just minutes out of your day, so you can go in, get treated and get back to life.

Radiation therapy can be used alone or as part of a broader treatment program, which could also include other treatments like surgery or chemotherapy. In most hospitals, a team of cancer specialists including the radiation oncologist, surgeon, medical physicist, radiation therapist and nurse work together to develop a personalized treatment plan for each patient.

The patient is positioned comfortably on the treatment room table, sometimes fitted with a body mold to help prevent movement during the procedure.

Once positioned, the system rotates around the patient delivering the cancer-fighting treatment beams to the tumor from many different angles as programmed by the clinical team. The treatment planning software and patient monitoring tools provide doctors with detailed information about the shape, size and position of the tumor. They also guide setup and positioning and monitor body and tumor motion during treatment.

Treatment Steps Overview

  • Pre-Operative Scans
  • Data Enrichment with Image Guided Software
  • Treatment Planning and Set-Up
  • Treatment ‘Beam-On’
  • Follow up

Once radiation treatment is delivered, it takes time for the cancer cells to begin to die and they continue to die over weeks or months after the treatment is delivered. Follow-up appointments with your doctor will be necessary to assess if the treatment goals were met and if additional treatment is needed.