Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy aims to destroy tumour tissue and thus promote curing of the disease and relieving of the symptoms. We at Tays provide both external and internal radiation therapy, i.e. brachytherapy. Because the radiation also affects normal tissue, it is important to plan radiation therapy between the doctors, physicists and radiographers.

Half of all cancer patients receive radiation therapy at some point of their disease. Our largest patient groups are those suffering from prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, head and neck area cancers, intestinal cancers as well as from malignant brain tumours.

We plan the treatment of each patient individually and for this reason the number of treatments, their duration, the selection of the treatment machine and other factors are different with different patients.

Planning radiation therapy at Tays

When the decision to give external radiation therapy has been made, the first thing to do is to prepare a dosage planning CT scan of the area to be treated, which the doctor uses to specify the radiation therapy area and indicate the needed radiation dose.

This is followed by computerised dosage planning. The scans are used to plan the treatment carefully to the selected area so that the sensitive normal tissue is avoided as well as possible. For this reason, the treatment can be divided into a radiation therapy field to be applied from several directions so that the different ray cones unite at the cancer tissue.

The total radiation dose is divided into daily sub-doses or fractions. This gives the normal tissue time to recover in between treatment sessions.

External radiation therapy

Usually, radiation therapy is provided five days a week. The treatment visit lasts approximately 20 minutes of which the actual radiation process takes only a few minutes.

When the objective is to cure cancer, a radiation therapy period lasting 5–8 weeks is often needed. In symptom-relieving radiation therapy, the symptom being treated determines the radiation dose, so the length of treatment may vary greatly between different patients.

The radiographers place the patient in the treatment position on the treatment table. Moving is forbidden during the treatment, but normal breathing is allowed. The radiation therapy table is lifted fairly high and for that reason moving is forbidden during the treatment.

Internal radiation therapy

In internal radiation therapy, i.e. brachytherapy, the radiation source is inserted with the help of a catheter either inside the cancer tissue or in its immediate vicinity. The radiation type is selected so that the effective impact extends only approximately one centimetre from the source. This way, only the cancer tissue is usually affected and normal tissue is spared.

The total radiation doses and their division into daily doses vary greatly according to the target

During the radiation therapy period

Usually, radiation therapy is provided at the outpatient clinic. However, if the patient’s overall condition has declined too much, the patient can be admitted to the ward for the duration of the treatment. If the patient has to travel a great distance, he/she may stay at the Patient Hotel.

Radiation used in radiation therapy is similar to that used in X-rays. Radiation cannot be felt and the patient is not ‘radioactive’ after the treatment.

A patient receiving radiation therapy may live a fairly normal life. Radiation therapy of several weeks may cause fatigue. A well-balanced normal diet, naps and outdoor exercise as much as physical condition allows help patients to cope better.

Radiation therapy does not usually cause a rise in temperature. In the case of a temperature, it should be reported to the nurse.

Persons in charge

Deputy Chief Physician Tanja Skyttä
Ward Manager Jaana Ketola-Hautamäki