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Radiation Therapy

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy treats cancer by using high doses of targeted radiation to destroy cancer cells and keep them from spreading through the body. Like almost half of people with cancer, you’ll work with your care team to create a treatment plan that may include some form of radiation therapy, often delivered in several sessions over a defined period of time. External radiation uses special types of advanced equipment, while internal radiation (brachytherapy) uses an implanted substance to treat your condition.

Innovative Radiation Therapy Close to Home

Ask your doctor for a referral to OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center in Oklahoma City for access to the largest and most comprehensive program of research-based radiation therapy treatments in the state or surrounding area. You can stay close to home and near your support network while you work with an experienced team of radiation oncology experts to evaluate your particular situation and develop an individualized treatment plan that meets your specific needs.

Advanced Radiation Therapy Treatments

At Stephenson Cancer Center, you and your doctors will select from advanced radiation therapy treatments available at only a few other sites in the region or around the world. You can take advantage of a wide range of internal and external radiation therapy options.

Internal Radiation

Internal radiation (brachytherapy) shrinks tumors by placing a tiny amount of a radioactive substance nearby. Used in areas throughout the body, especially the prostate, breast, cervix, gallbladder, lung, rectum or eyes, brachytherapy applies higher doses of radiation to treat small areas in less time than external radiation.

External Radiation

When you choose Stephenson Cancer Center for your care, you also benefit from extensive external radiation therapy services and some of the region’s – and the world’s – most advanced technology. You’ll find our Gamma Knife® and Gamma Knife® Icon™ systems for stereotactic radiosurgery procedures at only one other site in Oklahoma, and our proton therapy technology at only two other locations in the world.

Your choices for innovative external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) treatment at OU Health may include:

  • 3D conformal radiation therapy – Matches the size and shape of the tumor through high-definition 3D imaging technology for precision targeting with modified radiation beams; low-dose rate (LDR) or high-dose rate (HDR) options, depending on your specific situation
  • Accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI) – Uses linear accelerator or proton beam technology for short-term high-dose radiation of some breast cancer conditions; speeds therapy to five treatments instead of 6-7 weeks
  • Electron beam radiation – Uses short-range radiation that spares deeper healthy tissue to treat skin cancer and tumors found just below the skin
  • Intensity modulated proton therapy (IMPT) – “Paints” the tumor spot by spot and layer by layer using narrow, pencil-shaped beams and high doses of targeted radiation at hyper-fast speed; first machine in Oklahoma with precision pencil-beam scanning technology
  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) – Matches tumor size and shape as in conformal radiation therapy; especially effective for concave tumor shapes
  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) – Uses specialized 3D imaging technology to create a detailed map of the tumor that guides high-dose bursts of radiation to targeted sites outside the central nervous system
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) – Noninvasive treatment for brain tumors and cranial lesions; delivers precisely targeted radiation to delicate areas; one of only two medical facilities in Oklahoma with Gamma Knife® advanced SRS technology
  • Total body irradiation (TBI) – Applies radiation to the entire body all at once; especially effective for treating blood-related cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia

To ensure accurate radiation treatments, you’ll participate in a therapy simulation planning session using high-resolution image guidance such as CT, PET/CT or MRI technologies.

Intensity Modulated Proton Therapy (IMPT)

With their narrow and targeted beams, advanced external radiation treatments such as proton therapy can better deliver precise doses of radiation while sparing more of the nearby healthy tissue. That means you receive a smaller effective dose of radiation during the process of eliminating the disease.

Specialized IMPT Technology at OU Health

At OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center, you benefit from the latest technology for intensity modulated proton therapy (IMPT), the Mevion S250i with HYPERSCAN. Found at only two other locations in the world, this advanced equipment uses focused, narrow, “pencil-beam” precision to deliver high doses of proton radiation at hyper-fast speeds that more accurately track your breathing rate and naturally occurring organ motion.

Using adaptive aperture technology, the proton beam matches the size and shape of any tumor at any spot or depth for better distribution of the radiation dose compared to older proton devices. That approach minimizes radiation exposure to healthy tissue and surrounding organs.

Proton Therapy Clinical Trials

Ask your OU Health radiation therapy team about the extensive group of clinical trials for proton therapy available at Stephenson Cancer Center and find out if you qualify to participate. Clinical trials, often conducted locally in Oklahoma City, can provide you with access to experimental therapies or innovative treatment options not yet widely available for your particular condition.

Explore Radiation Therapy at Stephenson Cancer Center

Typically combined with other options such as chemotherapy and surgery, radiation therapy offers one of the most reliable cancer treatments available. Your individualized care plan will incorporate all possible resources to remove the cancer while also supporting your physical, mental and emotional health.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has canceled our complimentary in-person Radiation 101 workshop for now, you and your caregivers can find the helpful information you need when you download and review our Preparing for Radiation Therapy booklet [pdf]. You’ll learn what to expect before and after your therapy simulation planning appointment and how to prepare for your first radiation treatment, as well as answers to frequently asked questions, such as:

  • What to wear
  • How long treatments may take
  • Missed appointments and holidays
  • Transportation and weather-related concerns
  • Whether radiation can be seen or felt
  • How treatment doses and frequency are determined
  • Radiation safety during and after treatment
  • Communicating with radiation therapists during treatment
  • Possible side effects, including hair loss
  • How loved ones can support you during and after treatment

Your Radiation Therapy Team

In addition to radiation oncology experts, your multidisciplinary Stephenson Cancer Center radiation therapy team includes specialists from many healthcare fields such as surgical oncologists, physicians, advanced practice providers, chemotherapy and infusion nurses, oncology pharmacists and financial navigators, along with dietitians, nutritionists and supportive care specialists who focus on your particular needs and stay with you throughout your cancer journey.