What to Expect
At Brigham and Women’s/Sturdy Memorial Radiation Oncology Center, we’ll guide you through the radiation therapy process, preparing you for each step and answering any questions you may have. From your first appointment, which will involve examination and discussing your diagnosis, prognosis, and various treatment options, to planning, simulation, treatment, and beyond, it’s important to us that you feel informed and supported. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to alleviate your concerns or make you more comfortable.
▸ Radiation Therapies at the Center
▸ Diagnostic Services
▸ Coordination with Medical and Surgical Oncology
▸ Referring Physicians and Second Opinions
▸ Research and Clinical Trials
▸ Specialty Services and Support
Radiation oncologists work in conjunction with medical oncologists and/or surgeons to develop the best, individualized treatment plan for you. Radiation therapy utilizes high-energy X-Ray beams generated by a linear accelerator to destroy cancer cells or prevent them from growing. Through a state-of-the-art linear accelerator, you’ll receive targeted radiation to a particular part of your body, minimizing the amount of healthy tissue exposed to radiation.
Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) is used to treat tumors in organs that move when you breathe, like the lung or liver. The technology allows the radiation oncologist to monitor the exact tumor location and adjust for changes during treatment, minimizing radiation exposure to healthy tissues.
Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) allows doctors to customize the radiation dose by varying the amount of radiation given to different parts of the treatment area. This is done in highly accurate, three-dimensional detail, according to the shape, size, and location of the tumor, and helps minimize radiation exposure to normal surrounding organs.
Respiratory Gating uses CT information to interpret the patient’s individual breathing pattern. The linear accelerator can then be programmed to turn on only when lung movement is minimal. This can greatly reduce the size of the radiation area needed to adequately treat the tumor.
CT Simulation Planning enables the radiation oncologist to pinpoint the exact area of your body we will treat. Because precise, reproducible positioning is so important to the delivery of high- quality treatment, there are certain simulations for which specific equipment is utilized to help you stay in the same position for each session. The simulation process is highly individualized to ensure the most appropriate course of treatment for you.
Cone Beam CT (CBCT) is a three-dimensional form of IGRT with greatly enhanced image quality, and an important tool for patient positioning and verification in IGRT. Combining the imaging benefits of CT scanning technology with the treatment benefits of a linear accelerator offers more accuracy than standard radiation therapy. This can ultimately result in higher doses of radiation to the tumor and greater protection for the surrounding healthy anatomy.
4D CT Scanning represents the next step in advanced imaging technology that increases the accuracy of radiation treatment planning. 4D CT Scanning utilizes technologies allowing for detailed images of a tumor’s location through a patient’s respiratory cycle. This technology allows tumors to be visualized in relationship to movement experienced within the respiratory cycle by both the tumor and in relation to the body’s organs. This imaging technology is particularly useful in defining tumor volumes in the chest and abdomen which are influenced the most by the dynamic changes associated with respiration. This is very valuable for accurately treating tumors located on or near organs that move, such as those in the chest and abdomen.
There are several tests to help diagnose your cancer and track the progress of your treatment. Imaging services such as CT, PET/CT, MRI, digital mammography, ultrasound, and X-Ray help detect cancer and track the effects of treatment. Imaging services are provided through Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro, MA or at one of Brigham and Women’s various locations.
In addition, the laboratory services provided through Sturdy Memorial Hospital analyze blood and other samples. The team provides timely reports that can help you and your doctor identify the best therapy and measure your body’s response to treatment.
Radiation oncologists work in conjunction with medical oncologists and/or surgeons to develop the best, individualized treatment plan for you. Your multidisciplinary cancer care team can involve pathologists, radiologists, medical and radiation oncologists, and surgeons from one of Brigham and Women’s affiliated cancer centers such as Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center at Milford Regional Medical Center, or Sturdy Memorial Hospital. Your team reviews your case to develop the most appropriate treatment plan for you.
Medical oncology involves treatments such as chemotherapy, infusion therapy, and hormonal therapy. Cancer surgery is performed to remove or shrink a solid tumor, ease pain, remove obstructions caused by cancer, or repair an area of the body damaged by cancer. Our radiation oncologists collaborate with medical oncologists and surgical specialists to develop optimal treatment plans for patients.
Our team works collaboratively with referring physicians to develop treatment plans and communicate information about patient status in a detailed and timely manner.
In the event that a second opinion is desired, the physicians at the Brigham and Women’s/Sturdy Memorial Radiation Oncology can easily facilitate. Please inquire with your radiation oncologist.
Clinical research trials aim to advance the understanding, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer, while broadening treatment options and enhancing quality of care to patients. These research studies may test the safety and effectiveness of new therapies, look at new ways to give treatment, see how lifestyle changes can help cancer patients, or explore methods to keep cancer from recurring.
As part of your treatment, you may have the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial. Combined, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Sturdy Memorial Hospital give patients access to a broad array of clinical trials: Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center and Sturdy Memorial Hospital.
Cancer treatment involves powerful medications and therapies that can come with side effects. To alleviate side effects, promote healing, relieve stress, increase energy, and improve overall health, we encourage you to consider our affiliated specialty and support services. These include:
Nutritional Counseling: Design a healthful diet and manage treatment side effects. Ask your nurse to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian at Sturdy Memorial Hospital.
Integrative Therapies: Used in conjunction with other medical or therapeutic treatments. These include acupuncture, therapeutic massage, yoga, reflexology, and exercise as well as spiritual care and social work. For more information, speak to one of the nurses.
Education and Support Programs: Cancer support groups are offered on a monthly basis at Sturdy Memorial Hospital. The American Cancer Society holds "Look Good, Feel Better" programs at our Center, and Sturdy also offers exercise and movement programs for cancer patients. Call 508-236-7010 for more information.
Survivorship and Rehabilitation: Cancer Rehabilitation is offered at Sturdy Memorial Hospital. This hospital-wide multidisciplinary program supports patients living with cancer or in remission, and involves services such as physical therapy; occupational therapy, including lymphedema treatments; speech therapy; nutrition; mental health counseling; wellness, pulmonary, and cardiac rehabilitation programs; and social services. Call the Nurse Navigator at 508-236-7010 for more information.
Genetic Counseling and High-Risk Screening: If appropriate, you may undergo genetic counseling and testing to determine if a hereditary predisposition for a particular type of cancer can be identified. All patients that utilize the genetic counseling program, regardless of whether or not they undergo genetic testing, receive a risk assessment summary as well as screening and prevention recommendations to manage their cancer risk. For more information, call Brigham and Women’s Division of Genetics at 617-525-8111 or speak with your oncologist.
Pain and Palliative Care: Our staff can help manage the symptoms associated with your treatment, provide emotional support during treatment, facilitate communication with family members, and provide guidance when making difficult treatment decisions. Additional support is also available through the comprehensive Pain and Palliative Care Program at the Dana Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center and at Sturdy Memorial Hospital’s Palliative Care Program.